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JIS News

Small citrus farmers, with holdings of up to one hectare, are being encouraged to take advantage of the $10 million replanting programme provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The initiative was put in place last August to assist in the rehabilitation of small farms, which were devastated by the citrus tristeza virus. Funding is provided for the purchase of seedlings and other inputs.
However, head of the Citrus Protection Agency, Dr. Florence Young, has said that farmers have been slow to respond to the initiative. She noted that of a total of 1,700 registered and qualified citrus farmers, only a small number have so far taken up the offer.
She told JIS News, that the sluggishness could be as a result of farmers waiting until the dry period has passed, before attempting to replant. “This is the dry period you know and some of the farmers are cautious, fearful of taking the citrus plants now”, she said.
Dr. Young explained that to benefit from assistance, farmers must be registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority; farms must be one hectare (2.5 acre) or less; and farmers must have done some level of replanting.
She noted that the assistance was not for new citrus farmers. “It’s not an invitation for farmers to begin putting in citrus as the project is for re-planting so it has to be someone, who has some citrus trees,” she stressed.
She informed further, that the plants provided under the programme were certified as disease free by the Ministry of Agriculture and “carry a tag from the Jamaica Citrus Protection Agency certifying the plant’s nursery origin and listing its root stock and date of budding, all in an effort to have traceability if anything goes wrong”.
Farmers are being asked to pay a $15 per plant fee for the tag, which goes to the Citrus Protection Agency.
Dr. Young informed that follow-up would be provided by the Citrus Growers Association, which would also give guidance and technical knowledge to the farmers in the field.
Fertilizer and slug bait is also provided as part of the assistance given to the small citrus farmers.