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The Government will be establishing a one billion dollar rural agricultural diversification programme in banana producing parishes during the next financial year, to promote increased agricultural production and productivity in those parishes. This was disclosed by Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Robert Montague, at the 22nd annual St. Mary Agricultural Expo held at the Gray’s Inn Estate in Annotto Bay on Monday, March 24.
Mr. Montague, who deputized for Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, J. C Hutchinson, said the programme would provide assistance to banana farmers to enable them to improve and increase production, while at the same time, make the necessary support available for the cultivation of additional crops, as part of the diversification programme.
He pointed out that the crops would include pineapple, cassava, plantain and corn, and that the programme would be implemented as part of a number of measures being put in place by government to enable the agricultural sector to remain vibrant and to continue to be a major contributor to the national economy.
Among the other measures, he said, are plans to double the amount of extension officers in government service to make them more readily available to farmers; provide the necessary assistance to the cocoa industry in order to double cocoa production over the next three years; provide the necessary help to the bee-keeping industry to increase honey production, so that farmers can maximize the earning opportunities on the local and foreign markets; and working with the People’s Co-operative Banks to promote the use of greenhouse technology as an appropriate farming method.
The State Minister emphasized that the government was prepared to give the sector all the support it needed.Also addressing the function were Custos of St. Mary, Hon. A.A. Bobby Pottinger; Member of Parliament for South Eastern St. Mary, Tarn Peralto; Member of Parliament for Central St. Mary, Dr. Morais Guy, and Chairman of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Dr. Omer Thomas.
During the function, five farmers in the parish were honoured by the St. Mary Agri-Expo Organizing Committee for distinguished service to the agricultural sector in the parish. They are John Searchwell, Eric Rodney, Trevor Stoddard, Horace Stewart and George Burrows.