To curb the long standings courge of praedial larceny, soon after taking office in early January, the new administration in February re-launched the Agricultural Produce Receipt Book Programme.
Under the initiative, all registered farmers and vendors are required to issue a receipt, identifiable by a unique number, to anyone who purchases agricultural produce, as proof of payment.
Speaking at the re-launch at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in
St. Andrew on February 28, portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said praedial larceny has ballooned to become one of the greatest deterrents to agricultural production in Jamaica, with losses of up to $5 billion per annum.
The receipt book project is part of the Praedial Larceny Prevention Programme's four-tiered plan to address the problem.
Also, since taking office, the Government launched several projects to further boost the outputs of the agricultural sector, looking specifically at developing disease resistant crops.
In March, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries embarked on two intensive $42 million ginger and turmeric projects, aimed at, among other things, enhancing development and outputs through the cultivation of some 510 acres of the spices this year, and providing employment for just over 830 stakeholders.
Both initiatives also seek to improve husbandry in areas showing signs of combating disease prevalence; and engage in the commercial production of disease-free planting material using tissue culture, protected environment and hydroponic technologies.
The Government also demonstrated its commitment to facilitating the growth and rebuilding of the coffee industry when, Minister Clarke announced in February, that the Ministry would be providing a $29 million grant for coffee farmers.
Mr. Clarke informed that $20 million will go towards providing fertilizer; while the remaining $9 million will assist efforts to counter the dreaded coffee berry borer, including assisting the Coffee Berry Borer Task Force to effect pest control and eradication.
Further, to boost cocoa production, the Re-engineering the Cocoa Rural Economy through Agro-processing Eco-Tourism and Entrepreneurship (RECREATE) Project was launched at the Ministry’s headquarters on March 20.
RECREATE is a €350,000 EU-funded project, which will benefit the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Mary, St. James, St. Catherine, Clarendon, and Portland, up to 2013. Extra special varieties of cocoa now at Orange River, St. Mary and Montpelier, St. James will be improved and expanded, while private entrepreneurs will be encouraged to operate nurseries.
Another major undertaking of the new administration was the successful reaping in March, of Irish potatoes from nine demonstration plots in as many parishes.
The plots were established to demonstrate to farmers, the feasibility and profitability of producing the tuber in non-traditional areas. The project was also in keeping with the national objective to make Jamaica self sufficient in Irish potato production by 2015.
In April, the Ministry launched a new variety of disease resistant and higher yielding bananas and plantains, which are expected to facilitate increased cost efficiencies by 30 per cent for local banana farmers.
The bananas and plantains, known as the Honduras Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA) variety, are said to be more resilient to the dreaded black sigatoka disease; have a lower cost of production, 25 per cent greater yield, shorter preparation and cooking time, and better consumer quality than the traditional varieties.
Speaking at Banana Day activities at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), in Portland, on April 4, Minister Clarke said the promotion of the new crops is part of the Ministry’s efforts to revitalise and resuscitate the local banana sector.
To protect and preserve the coconut industry, the Ministry has intensified its fight against the lethal yellowing disease. The Ministry rolled out the ‘Black’ approach, which is aimed at replacing infected trees, with healthy ones.
Speaking at a Jamaica House press briefing in February, Plant Pathologist/Molecular Biologist at the Coconut Industry Board, Dr. Wayne Myrie, informed that a plant variety that is resistant to the disease has been developed, and these are being made available to farmers on a limited basis, as research and experimentation are ongoing.
To further assist farmers, a $4.5 million rainwater harvesting project was launched by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) on March 15. The project involves resuscitation of a six million-gallon catchment tank located in the community of Lititz in St. Elizabeth for the harvesting and storage of rainwater, which will be piped to farmers utilising solar technology.
The NIC is also implementing a solar irrigation system which will help to reduce the cost of water for more than 400 farmers in Manchester and St. Elizabeth. The project which is being funded at a cost of US$150,000 by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), will see the NIC pumps in both parishes relying less on regular electricity supply.
Minister Clarke also informed in February that the Government had received a US$15.1 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to assist in financing the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme (ACP).
To be implemented by the Ministry through the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC) over a five-year period, the ACP is aimed at: promoting market access by small and medium sized farmers; improving the performance of the country’s food quality and safety management system; and stimulating private sector investments in the agricultural sector.