Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said that stakeholders within the small ruminants industry have benefitted significantly from the recently concluded Food Facility Project for Jamaica.
The two-year project, from June 2009 to November 2011, was undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through €5.9 million in funding from the European Union (EU).
Speaking at last week’s Jamaica Goat Farmers’ Association annual general meeting at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine, Mr. Clarke informed that the project yielded 10 dairy goats (5 Alpine and 5 Toggenburg varieties); 43 meat goats (Boer variety); and 1,111 straws of semen from high quality breeding stock imported from the United States; while 72 animals were bought locally and distributed.
Artificial insemination, he disclosed, constituted a significant part of the programme, and farmers were encouraged to utilise this cost effective method to rapidly multiply the industry’s premium genetic material.
“A total of nine demonstration sites have been established across the island, four of which have been identified specifically as breeder sites to facilitate production and dissemination of improved breeding stock to goat farmers,” Minister Clarke informed.
He noted further that work is being completed towards the establishment of a milking parlour in Manchester, to initiate “much needed” development in the goat dairy sector. Additionally, he said, fodder banks have been established at all sites for the supply of improved forage, including the mulberry, king grass and moringa varieties, to the industry.
The project also facilitated refurbishing of the abattoir at Bodles to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) standard, complete with bio-security infrastructure.
Mr. Clarke informed that the Goat Farmers Association benefitted under the project, having received two trucks for the transportation of live and slaughtered animals, while a herd records system was put in place at the Herd Records Management Unit at Bodles. Additionally, he said, capacity building initiatives were undertaken, including training in all aspects of goat production; value added production, and the supply of equipment.
“With the completion of the project in November 2011, the Goat Farmers Association is fully equipped and more than capable of driving the development of the goat industry,” he contended.
The Minister said, however, that notwithstanding the work already done “there are still some challenges, which must be overcome” for the growth of the sector. He noted that, currently, Jamaica imports more than 80 per cent of total goat meat consumed at a cost of more than $400 million.
“Our aim is to reduce this, over the next three to five years by 10 per cent, by adopting improved management practices, increased use of technology, and increasing production and getting more farmers into the trade. The result will be more earnings for the small farmer(s) and the stimulation of jobs in our rural communities,” Mr. Clarke stated.
The EU Food Facility Project was aimed at augmenting the government’s efforts to improve access to safe, affordable and nutritious food. Focus was placed on increasing planting areas; creating rapid multiplication centres for the production of quality planting material; and setting up greenhouses for the production of quality seedlings. FAO also trained farmers and extension officers in improved organic farming practices, post-harvest storage and packaging techniques.
Work was also undertaken to expand the livestock breeding programme, enabling farmers to produce more meat for supply to the local market.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter