JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has announced the establishment of a centre of excellence for agriculture at the Ministry’s Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine.
The centre, which is expected to be developed through a US$3 million provision from the Spanish Agency for International Development (SAID), is expected to underpin a number of initiatives, which the Ministry will seek to pursue this year, with a view to strengthening the sector’s capacity and enhancing output, thereby safeguarding Jamaica’s food security. The thrust towards food security comes against the background of the current global food crisis, characterized by spiraling price increases and the challenges faced with providing adequate supplies for consumption.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies on Wednesday (March 12), Dr. Tufton said the SAID agreed to make the US$3 million provision available during his recent visit to Spain.
“They (SAID) agreed to give US$3million, which we are going to use to set up a centre of excellence. Essentially, what it (centre) will be is a facility that does applied research, practical research, and training in the latest agricultural technologies in the world, based on our needs (and) our requirements,” Dr. Tufton outlined.
Some of these needs and requirements, he said, include the implementation of adequate and efficient irrigation mechanisms and systems, orchard development, and greenhouse technology. He lamented the “misuse and abuse” of water, noting that “it’s not that we don’t have enough water, it’s that we don’t use it properly; we over irrigate, and we have to find a way to deal with that.”
Regarding orchard development, the Agriculture Minister noted that citrus crops are the only established orchards in Jamaica, and stressed the need to do the same with other crops such as cashew, naseberry, mango, and cocoa.
“You find one plant here, one plant there, one plant everywhere. We need to get small farmers to put an acre, two acres into one crop. But with orchards come risks, because they are susceptible to diseases. We want to put some capacity in to anticipate some of those risks and deal with them,” he stated.
Dr. Tufton said that once the centre is established, he will seek to initiate collaborations with institutions such as the UWI to optimize on the facility’s resources. He advised that the University of Technology had approached him regarding offering certification in agricultural research, and has directed the institution to have discussions with the UWI regarding a partnership on the matter. “I understand that that dialogue is taking place, and similarly with the College of Agriculture,” he stated.
The Minister also advised that an agreement had been signed with counterparts in Costa Rica, during his recent trip there, which will facilitate local sector stakeholders accessing best practices through training.
“So, wherever they are good in a particular agricultural activity, we are going to exchange with them, and use that centre to try and transfer that knowledge so that we (can) build capacity. In fact, next month, we are sending 12 extension officers to Costa Rica for a month to study greenhouse technology, so that they can come back and be a critical part of that greenhouse expansion (being pursued),” Dr. Tufton advised.
Another initiative, which will be pursued as part of the food security thrust, is a cassava project. The Minister disclosed that approximately 2,000 acres of restored bauxite lands has been identified, pointing out that small farmers will be mobilized and incorporated in this undertaking.
Additionally, he said that consideration is being given to using cassava as a substitute for corn in the production of livestock feed. In the same vein, Dr. Tufton announced that the Ministry will be undertaking test trials of corn and rice to determine their suitability as substitutes for corn-based feeds.

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