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  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is to conduct research trials on 15 new varieties of imported Irish potato over the next three months, to determine their suitability for local conditions.
  • Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said the research into the new potato varieties forms part of activities under the National Irish Potato Expansion Programme, being funded at a cost of $911 million.
  • The programme is aimed at increasing production of the crop to fulfil 100 per cent of local consumption demand.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is to conduct research trials on 15 new varieties of imported Irish potato over the next three months, to determine their suitability for local conditions.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said the research into the new potato varieties forms part of activities under the National Irish Potato Expansion Programme, being funded at a cost of $911 million.

The programme is aimed at increasing production of the crop to fulfil 100 per cent of local consumption demand.

The Minister, who was speaking at the launch of the 2015/16 programme at Argyle Farm, New Pen, St. Mary, on Thursday, December 10, said the new varieties will augment the Sputna, which has been the main type grown locally by farmers for many years. He said they are high-yielding, producing 20,000 tonnes per hectare or more.

The research trials, being done at a cost of $2.32 million, includes cultivation of the new varieties on two half-acre plots in the traditional potato farming region of Devon, Manchester, and the non-traditional area of Ebony Park, Clarendon from December 2015 to March 2016.

Minister Kellier noted that potato production has increased from 30 per cent of local consumption in 2008, to 90 per cent last year.

He said the sector was on course to fulfilling 100 per cent of local demand in 2015, but was adversely impacted by drought.

“(During) the January to June period,…the programme supplied 10.4 million kilogrammes of marketable potatoes or 69 per cent of the national demand,” he informed.

As such, he said, the new high-yielding potatoes, which are blight-resistant, are intended to bring production back on track “as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Kellier advised that the Ministry’s Research and Development Division will collect agronomic and pest data, with support from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and participating farmers, to maintain and monitor the plots for the experiment’s duration.

He expressed gratitude to the various stakeholders, including farmers, who supplied the majority of the funds for the trials, and the $856,000 provided under the Promotion of Regional Opportunities for produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) project.

PROPEL is a joint five-year market-led initiative of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF), being implemented in partnership with the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) and the Caribbean Group of Youth Business Trust (CGYBT).

It aims to significantly increase the absorption of Caribbean fresh produce into high value markets including supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, cruise lines and the airline industry and, in the process, improve the value of exports.

The project supports farmers and producers in eight Caribbean countries – Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados.

The initiative, which commenced in March 2012, is slated for completion in March 2017.