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Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, has said that during the year, the Ministry worked aggressively to create production enhancement opportunities for rural farmers through a number of projects and programmes.
Mr. Clarke, who was addressing an end-of-year press conference at his Old Hope Road offices in Kingston yesterday (Dec. 28), cited the flagship Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), as one of the programmes that has impacted positively on the growth of the rural farming during the year.
Under the project, some $10.9 million was allocated to the Tilapia Expansion Project and according to the Agriculture Minister, this project significantly increased productivity and pioneered the introduction of a number of value-added products on the market, including breaded fish sticks and fish burgers.
In addition, a further $18.7 million was allocated to the sheep production project, and some 50 high yielding dorper sheep were imported for crossbreeding with local herds, in order to increase productivity and lower the farmers’ production costs.
The Ebony Park Vegetable Production Project, another initiative under the ASSP, also received $19.3 million, which was used to assist farmers’ groups islandwide to supply produce to the hotel sector.
Minister Clarke further informed that a total of $19 million was allocated to the Amity Hall project, which assisted some 32 farmers to plant peppers, escallion for export and the local agro-processing industry.
During the year in review, under the ASSP, a total of $5.6 million was earmarked to the Hounslow/Pedro Plains Producers Group, which allowed the group to supply sweet potatoes and vegetables for the export market.
Since its inception in 2001, the ASSP has financed 78 projects and services at a cost of $645 million. To date the ASSP’s expenditure stands at $56.5 million. In an effort to diversify the country’s agricultural production, the Ministry of Agriculture developed a strategy aimed at modernizing and repositioning its key sub-sectors in order to create economic growth. As part of the effort, $200 million was pumped into a number of areas such as sheep, goat and pig production, beekeeping, sweet potato production, tree crop cultivation for the agro-processing industry, and vegetable production under greenhouse conditions.
“In terms of the sheep, goat and pig production. significant increases were recorded in these sub-sectors during the period on review, as a direct result of capital injections of $50 million and $18 million from the Ministry and the ASSP respectively.the results have been phenomenal,” the Minister informed.
Minister Clarke noted that during the year in review, honey production doubled from an average of 3.2 gallons to 7.5 gallons per hive. “This is as a direct result of the Ministry’s strategic intervention through the adoption of modern technologies and the improved pest-management practices demonstrated to farmers by the apiculture unit’s extension services. The injection of $11.5 million into the industry by the ASSP funded honey marketing and production,” he informed.
Mr. Clarke noted further that the Ministry recognized that there was tremendous potential in the beekeeping sub-sector, and as such, during the year in review, a further $30 million was allocated to train unemployed young men and women in beekeeping skills, as well as to establish a $15 million revolving loan fund from which existing bee farmers, as well as new entrants to the industry, can access a maximum of $250,000.