Farmers in Guy’s Hill, St. Mary, are to benefit from the Agriculture Push-Start (APS) programme, aimed at increasing the production of Irish potato, onions and Scotch bonnet peppers.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. William J.C. Hutchinson, said the programme will concentrate on the youth and women, but it will also embrace all agricultural entrepreneurs who have a passion for and are serious about agriculture.
“This is a pilot project starting with three crops. The aim of the programme is to engage anyone who wants to pursue agriculture as a business, to give them a good start, and in so doing, we are creating employment. This is about providing opportunities to better provide for you and family, your social empowerment and community development,” he said.
He was speaking at the launch of the initiative during the National Irish Potato Programme Sensitisation Meeting held at the Guy’s Hill Town Hall on Wednesday (October 11).
Minister Hutchinson said if the pilot is successful, the initiative will be extended to other parishes, and more crops added.
“We have the capacity to grow most of these crops ourselves. When we look at crops like tomato, cantaloupe, gungo peas, carrot, thyme, all of these crops we import. We should never be importing these crops, and so… once we find that this programme gets off properly this year, all of these crops will be coming into the programme to give those who want to get involved a push-start,” he indicated.
He said the APS programme is open to persons who do not have access to land, but are interested in farming.
“We have as our partners in this programme the National Land Agency, which will be working with us to provide access to unused Government land. That means any Government land anywhere whatsoever, we are going to put farmers on that land so that they can cultivate,” he said.
Minister Hutchinson encouraged the farmers to register their operations as a formal business and to seek assistance from the Ministry, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), and other partner agencies.
Present at the meeting were the Potato and Onion Producers’ Association, H&L Agro, Newport Fersan (Jamaica) Limited, and CrediScotia, which provided support, information on supplies, loans and other options available to assist with the APS programme.
The Irish Potato sensitisation meeting was part of a series being undertaken by RADA to build farmers’ awareness and provide technical support for the 2017/2018 crop season.