Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB), Richard Miller is appealing to dairy farmers to access the $84 million in loans as well as grants that are available them.
He says the funds will help them to improve and increase the quality and efficiency of their milk production, enabling the industry to become more competitive globally.
Mr. Miller tells JIS News that the Board recognises that one of the main problems that farmers face is access to capital, hence the soft loan initiative.
The loan is being facilitated through the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the National PC Bank. The DBJ will manage the funds and the PC Banks will disburse the loans to the farmers in the various parishes.
“Farmers can access this loan with a ceiling of $1.25 million for individual farmers and $2.5 million for companies,” Mr. Miller explains, adding that “there is big market out there for dairy products. If you look at the amount of dairy products that our little island consumes in a year, we are looking at the equivalent of a 150 million litres of dairy consumption and we are only producing about 13 million litres”. Local production is a small percentage of the total consumption of dairy products both in earnings and product. Approximately 55 million litres of milk, valued at some J$3.3 billion was s imported in 2012. According to Mr. Miller dairy farming can be lucrative, but the cost entry is relatively high. However, the JDDB also offers grants on each loan, to cover the major portion of the cost of the business plan, which farmers need to present in order to access loans.
Farmers can also use these loans for retooling, pasture resuscitation, purchase of animals for increasing their herd, and purchasing of small equipment, in keeping with the advancement of production and improvement of productivity. Meanwhile, Mr. Miller also notes that dairy farmers have been complaining about the high cost of electricity, and that so to assist with this, the JDDB has held discussions with players in the business of solar energy and bio-digestion. He explains that, “In terms of bio-digester system, cattle are capable of producing enough electricity. For example one cow is able to produce enough electricity from its waste to milk three cows.”
As for solar energy site visits have been done and designs are being made for a pilot project on two farms in St. Elizabeth, where there is a high concentration of dairy farmers.
“The idea is that when these pilot projects are set up and run properly it will encourage the farmers to get into solar energy and bio-digester, and of course we will provide loans for them to start up,” Mr. Miller informs. The JDDB is also encouraging young dairy farmers to explore avenues for value added products that can grow as cottage industries.
“A group of them (can) get together and utilising all of their milk to provide some value added products such ice cream, yogurt, whipped cream and half cream,” Mr. Miller suggests.
Meanwhile, the JDDB is preparing to host seminars on proper milking techniques and milking hygiene, and fodder production. “During the dry time the industry reels from the drought and oftentimes there is no fodder in reserve, the thing is that farmers can cut these grass during the good times and bag them for the dry times,” he says.
The JDDB’s mandate is to develop the dairy industry through policy intervention, capacity building, and industry regulation. Established in 2008 it is charged with putting programmes in place for the growth and regulation of the sector and other connected matters.
The objectives of the Board include promoting efficiency in the production of milk and other dairy products; and collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information and reliable statistics on all aspects of the dairy trade. This is to allow for greater transparency in the market, and mobilize resources on behalf of the dairy sector.
With its responsibility to develop policy and to co-ordinate a milk production enhancement programme, the JDDB is also involved in the development of food sovereignty policy.
This policy will ensure that farmers are protected in terms of milk production so that they are not at a disadvantage to imports.
Persons interested in going into dairy farming may contact the JDDB at 977-9230, 276-9303, address emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Rural Agricultural Development Authority offices in each Parish.