JIS News

Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has informed that farmers will be trained in strategies to boost the productivity of certain crops, with the help of extension officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
This follows a study undertaken by the Ministry to determine the reason for the decline, over the years, in productivity of 12 selected crops. Dr. Tufton noted that over the last 15 years, the productivity of certain crops, has gone down by about 17 per cent, and production by about 30 per cent.
“So with all that we are doing, we are losing the battle to stay efficient and as a consequence, marginalising our capacity to be in a position to support ourselves and to determine our destiny. We have completed that study and we are now looking at the research and training agenda to support productivity improvements in those crops,” he informed.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony for a Sub-Regional Training of Trainer (TOT) Workshop on Agricultural Science, Technology and Innovation Systems, being hosted by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA), in collaboration with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) and the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST). The workshop is being held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel from October 13 to 17.
“We are starting with those critical crops we have identified.we believe we should grow a lot more ginger, it is one of the better crops in Jamaica, it is world-known,” he noted.
However, the Minister said, because the cost of production is expensive and the crop disease prone, “we need to address these issues and get farmers to grow more…and stop importing the cheap ones…we need to grow more carrots,” Dr. Tufton implored, while pointing to the need to grow more yam for the export market.
He also informed that a market analysis has also been done on the crops, where a marketing specialist was brought on board. The markets were segmented into tourism, agro-processors, retailers, and export markets. “We have measured those markets, we have looked at the import data that is coming in to the country, to determine what is coming in and where it is going, to again determine a better understanding of the markets and the form the product should take to go to the market. That information must be fed into building capacity so our farmers can produce what the market requires, which will minimise the possibility of farmers growing and not being able to sell,” Dr. Tufton noted.
The Agriculture Minister said that with the productivity studies completed and the market analysis done, the farmers are now being organised. “Over the last year, we have organised approximately 400 farmers’ groups throughout the country; they are called production and marketing organisations, registered with the RADA as community-based groups.we are going to be working through those groups. So on deciding that we are targeting a particular crop, we need to go in and train those farmers as to what are the best practices in growing those crops and work with them to find markets also,” Dr. Tufton informed.
He further noted that there has been a 30 per cent increase in RADA extension officers, through recruitment, and that tomorrow (Oct. 15), “we will be introducing 20 additional officers who are going to be deployed to bring down the ratio of farmers to extension officers, and we are working on a training agenda to ensure that they are held accountable to transferring the knowledge that is necessary. We plan to recruit another 40 between now and the end of the Parliamentary year.”
He said that the extension officers will be equipped with kits, which will also be unveiled tomorrow. “The kits will have 36 different tools and equipment to support the farmers’ activities in the field, and every extension officer will be given a kit to go out in the field over time. We are now sourcing all the equipment,” he noted.
On another matter, the Agriculture Minister informed that two major soil studies are currently being conducted, which will result in two manuals, one of which will deal with nutrients in the soil, which he says hasn’t been done for 20 years. “Right now we are fertilising and we are not sure what is the most efficient use of fertilisation because of a lack of updated knowledge on soil content, so rural physical planning is doing that right now,” he informed.
Dr. Tufton noted that the other manual would deal with soil diseases. “The manual is going to prescribe a process, so that any time a farmer is going to farm, he should be able to get an analysis on the current status of the soil.based on a prescribed process,” he explained.
Turning to additional marketing strategies to improve the productivity of particular crops, the Minister informed that a yam packaging house in Trelawny was being repaired to allow for purchasing from farmers.
“We are negotiating with two large companies, GraceKennedy – to set up a packaging house in St. Elizabeth, (and) Caribbean Producers to set up one in Christiana. He noted that the intention is to “focus the farmer on farming, and allow expertise for packaging and distribution to focus on the marketing of the product.”
Meanwhile, in his remarks, Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Michael Stern, noted that in his constituency of North-West Clarendon, a project to grow ginger in greenhouses, was being embarked on. “I now have to team up with the SRC, so we can teach our people in those communities how to do it.I see where we can build that capacity on the ground to better their standard of living,” he said.
The training workshop will seek to support the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP), region in building capacity to improve understanding among leaders in the agricultural sector in ACP countries, of innovation framework systems. It emphasises how the major actors involved in an innovation system at the national level in any given sector and in particular, the agricultural sector, can contribute to improving and expanding innovation processes in support of socio-economic markets.