Commercial Orchard Crop Farmers Get Help


The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has signalled its continued commitment to fully support the viable fruit export and agro-processing markets, with the award of a total of $750,000 to six farmers who are involved in commercial orchard crop production.
Each farmer has received a voucher valued at $125,000 that will be used to purchase agricultural inputs.
The farmers were all participants in the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Fruit Tree Crop Improvement Project, which culminated on (July 19), with a seminar at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
The project provided training for orchard owners in new techniques in fruit tree propagation and production; nursery management; marketing, and post-harvesting at a cost of $18.6 million.
An additional 11 farmers from Clarendon, St. Ann, St. James, St. Thomas, St. Mary and St. Elizabeth were presented with farm diaries, rain gauges and other tools required for successful orchard production.
The seminar brought together agro-processors, exporters, nursery operators and farmers trained in the new technologies, with the objective of forging networking relationships in the development of commercial orchard crop production, to provide raw material for the local agro-processing industry. A Fruit Tree Growers Association was also formed at the seminar.
In his address at the seminar, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke expressed “heartfelt gratitude” to the FAO, noting that the project “goes to the very core of the Ministry’s Agricultural Development Strategy formulated some three years ago to boost the non-traditional sectors, by introducing appropriate cutting-edge technology to stimulate production and help participating farmers to significantly increase their earning capacity.”
“Based on the FAO’s intervention, we are now a step closer to that goal,” he said. He informed that the Ministry has boosted its nursery capacity at its Bodles and Orange River plant nurseries to 200,000 plants annually, “enough planting material to plant out between 120 and 400 hectares annually, depending on the type of fruit tree crop.”
“In addition, the Ministry has received proposals from local investors for the establishment of a 100-hectare nursery for the production of orchard crops,” the Minister added.
Mr. Clarke noted that with the new capacity to produce at commercial levels, the Ministry, under the Agricultural Development Project, has allocated $50 million towards tree crop cultivation, and has made it available as grants to assist farmers producing orchard crops for the export and agro-processing markets. The grants range from $25,000 to $125,000 depending on the size of the orchard, he said.
The crops targeted are ackee, breadfruit, sweetsop, guinep, custard apple, guava, lychee, naseberry, tamarind, june plum, soursop, otaheite apple, mango and avocado.
“Why the emphasis on fruit tree crop production? The answer to this lies in the tremendous potential for foreign exchange savings as well as the increased income-earning capacity for stakeholders in the industry,” Mr. Clarke pointed out, citing data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica showing that more than $1.3 billion was spent in 2006 on the importation of fruit juices and concentrates for agro-processing and domestic consumption.
“I am proud to say that we are now poised to reverse this trend, with the new techniques learned and the expanded capacity in our fruit tree crop development,” he said.
He also cited the growing demand for orchard crops in the United States, Europe and Japan and the willingness by these markets to pay premium prices for these commodities. The Minister also drew attention to the US$400 million market in the United States for processed ackee.
“Herein lies a golden opportunity to increase revenue if we can meet this demand,” he challenged stakeholders at the seminar. The Minister also urged the group to access the funds and the technical expertise available, and “to continue the networking process which has already begun, in the interest of import-substitution and increased earnings for all.”
Executive Director of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Albert Shand called on all stakeholders, including the extension and research divisions in the Ministry, to capitalize and pursue the assistance provided by the FAO on the project.
“I trust that the farmers of this country will capitalize and make use of the assistance given to us. and we at RADA stand ready to assist farmers in developing the orchards, because what we have found over the years is that most of our industries are based on pasture production and we have to realize that orchard development and production is important,” he added.

JIS Social