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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that a centre of excellence is to be established at the Bodles Research Centre in St. Catherine, which will bring under one umbrella, the range of agricultural research and best practices for the benefit of farmers.
The Minister, who made the announcement at the launch of the Denbigh Agricultural Show on June 11 at the ACE Supercentre in Whitemarl, St. Catherine, said that the decision to create this centre of excellence is an attempt by the Ministry to ensure the longevity of the agricultural sector.
He explained that the aim is to transfer the knowledge to farmers, “to address issues of quality, consistency, and reliability, which are fundamental to ensuring that we have a market that is guaranteed.” He informed that the Spanish government has approved US$3million to support the project and discussions have been held with local universities, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), the Inter-American Institute of Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the initiative.
Minister Tufton said that as a complement, renewed efforts are being made to strengthen the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). A report is soon to be tabled in Cabinet, which will see an improvement in the quality of the personnel being placed in the field to interact with farmers.
“For example, we are going to improve the livestock officers; we currently have three in the entire country, ensure a marketing officer for each parish and bring on board two marketing experts, one local and one overseas, so we can have better information to guide farmers,” he informed.
The Agriculture Minister noted that a lot more needs to be done to address reliability and consistency in production as well as marketing issues, but Government is working assiduously to create viable options.
In the meantime, the Minister said that he is eagerly looking forward to this year’s Denbigh Agricultural Show, which will be held from August 1-3.
“I’m looking forward to going there and seeing financial institutions providing information to farmers about how they can access credit, how to develop a business plan, and other areas if agriculture is to become a viable entity,” he stated.
The Denbigh Agricultural Show, now in its 56th year, is being staged under the theme: ‘Grow what you eat, eat what you grow’.