JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture is exploring means of partnering with the private sector for greater value-added opportunities for the cocoa industry, as it seeks to widen prospects for that product.
This collaboration with the private sector is being examined as part of a joint study being conducted by the Cocoa Industry Board (CIB) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), State Minister for Agriculture, J.C. Hutchinson said, during his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 21.
He said the CIB also has plans to introduce new planting material in the form of budded plants, which are high-yielding and disease resistant. Solar drying of beans and modernization of processing facilities through mechanization of operations, would also be instituted this year resulting in significant savings, which would be passed on to the farmers in the form of improved farm gate prices, Mr. Hutchinson told the House.
Since October of last year 21,000 seedlings have been distributed, up from the 14,000 seedlings distributed in the previous year.
“This is indicating that there is renewed interest in the sector. At the same time, our nurseries now have 30,000 seedlings at different stages of growth to be ready for distribution starting this month,” he said.
One of the major initiatives undertaken last year was the rehabilitation of the 83-acre Orange River cocoa farm, owned by the Ministry at a cost of $5 million.
“Cocoa represents one of those crops which has tremendous export potential and which requires focused intervention to realize this growth. Jamaica’s fine-flavoured cocoa is among the highest quality in the world and fetches two times the price as competing cocoa on the world market,” Mr. Hutchinson said.
He explained that the Ministry was striving to achieve production levels of 1,400 tonnes per annum, “which we were easily doing up to 1997.” For the crop year ending September 30, production was at 768 tonnes.