KINGSTON — The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries presented machinery valued at US$300,000 to the Jamaica Rice Producers Association (JARPA) on November 3 as part of efforts by the Government to re-develop the local rice industry.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, handed over the equipment to the rice producers, which consists of two rice combine harvesters, during a brief ceremony held at Lindo's Farm at Hill Run, St. Catherine.
Donated by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)-CARES, parent company of the Jamaica Rice Mills Limited, the equipment will assist in the reaping of more than 25,000 tonnes of rice paddies per season, as the Government looks to reduce imports of the staple. Currently, 100,000 tonnes of rice consumed annually is imported, and
Mr. Montague is aiming for the country to meet at least 20 per cent of the country's rice consumption needs.
He informed that over the next three years, some 8,000 acres of rice will be planted, with approximately 250 acres to be in the ground by the end of November, and the first crop to be reaped by March 2012.
He said that the Ministry, through the Agricultural Investment Corporation (AIC), has made some 1200 hectares of land available for production, and discussion is underway with the Sugar Company Holdings of Jamaica for farmers to have access to lands that were excluded from the COMPLANT leases.
Mr. Montague noted too that talks are ongoing between the rice growers and the Agriculture Credit Board “to package a special line of credit to facilitate the production of rice in the island”.
"The availability of affordable credit is what is going to be key to making this project work. We already have the market and the Jamaica Rice Mills Limited will mill all the rice that you produce because you will only be producing quality rice," he stated.
Minister Montague commended ADM-CARES for the donation, and lauded the assistance provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) in the redevelopment of the industry.
Chairman JARPA, Tony James, said the machines will place the rice industry on a viable and sustainable path.
"The need for quality and reliable machinery, especially in the area of harvesting, cannot be over-emphasised. The (harvesters) will go a long way in ensuring that farmers’ rice is harvested properly and on time," he stated.
For his part, Board Director at the Jamaica Rice Milling Company, Derrick Nembhard, implored the farmers to use the machines efficiently. He said the company will only accept rice of good quality "which I am sure these combines will help to facilitate."
At present, rice production is undertaken in four parishes in the island – St. Catherine, St. Elizabeth, Clarendon and Westmoreland, and Minister Montague said that plans are underway to expand production to other parishes.
ADM is a US-based company that began operations in Jamaica in 1997, when the company acquired the Jamaica Flour Mills Limited. In 2002, the company acquired a rice mill, which is operated under the name Jamaica Rice Milling Company. ADM-CARES is the charity arm of the parent company.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter