KINGSTON — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton says despite the challenges which the agricultural sector faced during the 2009/2010 period, the industry recovered well to demonstrate sustainable growth.
“Jamaica's agricultural sector continues to move forward, with a continuation of the steady increases achieved over the last three years,” he said, while delivering the 2009/2010 annual review and the fourth quarter report, at a news conference, held at his Hope Gardens offices on February 1.
Dr. Tufton informed that the year was characterised by drought in the first half and flooding at the top of the second half, but despite this, the farmers’ performances could be described as credible. “We were still able to come out performing better this past year, over the year before, even if just marginally,” he reported.
Hepointed out that for 2010, the domestic crop production was at its highest level for the past 11 years, noting that production for 2010 was 500,305 tonnes, a 2.2 per cent increase over the 2009 level of production and eclipsing the 491,473 tonnes achieved in 2003, the next highest production level achieved in recent years.
Based on preliminary estimates, the overall sector showed an increase of one per cent, he said. The Minister also reported that weather played a very important part in crop production throughout 2010, with severe drought early in the year, followed by a period of good weather, which ended when the country was hit by Tropical Storm Nicole in September, which negatively affected production for the remainder of the year.
As a result, there were mixed performances among the crops, with many of the short-term ones not doing as well as targeted, he said. Among the crop groups that showed positive changes for the year were yams, which increased by 12,269 tonnes or 9.9 per cent; other tubers, which increased by 7,245 tonnes or 20.7 per cent, with significant increases within this group for dasheen, 13.2 per cent; sweet cassava, 46.6 per cent, and bitter cassava, 11.5 per cent.
The sector also recorded positive movements in the growth of plantains, which increased by 5,205 tonnes or 21.1 per cent; potatoes, which increased by 393 tonnes or 1.1 per cent; cereals, which grew by 268 tonnes or 11.5 per cent (which included the production of 264 tonnes of rice); and sorrel, which increased by 246 tonnes or 30.3 per cent.
Among the crop groups showing declines were fruits, which declined by 8,767 tonnes or 18.7 per cent; watermelon, down 14.4 per cent; papaya down 50.2 per cent; vegetables declined by 8,132 tonnes or 4.7 per cent; and legumes, which declined by 890 tonnes or 18.5 per cent.
The Agriculture Minister informed that with the exception of St. Mary, which had an increase of 67.2 per cent; Portland (17.5 per cent increase); Westmoreland (13.4 per cent increase); Hanover (19.9 per cent increase) and St. Catherine (2.2 per cent increase), all other parishes recorded declines for the year.
He noted that the most significant declines, in terms of absolute losses, were recorded in St. Elizabeth, which declined by 4,283 tonnes or 4.3 per cent and Manchester, which declined by 3,874 tonnes or 4.4 per cent.
“Both of these parishes were among those most badly affected by the drought earlier in the year as well as having significant damage during and after Nicole. These factors severely affected production and productivity in these main production parishes throughout much of the year,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, for the fourth quarter (October to December), production of domestic crops recorded a decrease of 6.7 per cent. This, according to the Ministry, resulted from the direct and indirect damages caused by Tropical Storm Nicole and the subsequent unseasonably wet and extended rainy season.
“This severely restricted land preparation and crop establishment in some of the more productive areas. As a result, many farmers in the most productive areas planted their traditional fall crops late. This late planting, coupled with good weather since the end of the rains, has helped to now push us in a glut situation for some crops,” he pointed out.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter