State Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Ian Hayles, has welcomed the implementation of two projects by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), which seek to enhance the production of roots, tubers, vegetables and herbs in the region.
“These projects are a step in the right direction as they are aligned with the Ministry’s strategic growth areas; onions, yams, tumeric, ginger to name a few, as they have clearly defined markets,” he said.
Mr. Hayles was addressing a Caribbean Stakeholders' Symposium for the projects held on June 13 at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St. Andrew.
The projects, which were launched in 2010 with grant funding from the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and the European Union (EU) are entitled: ‘Increased Production of Roots and Tuber Crops in the Caribbean through the Introduction of Improved Marketing and Production Technologies’; and ‘Increased Production of Vegetables and Herbs through the use of Protected Agriculture in the Caribbean’.
The State Minister further noted that these projects also present great opportunities for the country’s non-traditional sub-sectors “which have tremendous potential in terms of export development and import substitution”, pointing to yam, for example, which in 2011, had export earnings of approximately US$28 million, “but has the capacity to generate even more revenue/income”.
“Similarly, our herbs and spices have potential for the development of our nutraceutical industry and the United States/regional markets. If we could exploit just even a small percentage of these markets, we would be on our way,” he said.
Mr. Hayles lamented that, while the country has made some strides in improving some of its primary crops, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of value-added and processing.
“Too often, our farmers have suffered as a result of excess production in some crops; whereas if we had vibrant agro-processing industries, we could capitalise on the excess production. It is to that end that we are encouraging increased public/private sector partnership… to establish storage and post harvest facilities,” he said.
He went on to thank the EU/CFC for the grant assistance towards capacity building for the country’s farmers, who have benefited from the transfer of knowledge and the development of skills along the value chain, through training and demonstration in production and group dynamics, post harvest, processing and marketing techniques.
“Knowledge is indeed power, and with the ‘know how’, our farmers will be in a better position to engage in agronomic practices that will eventually lead to greater yields,” he said.
The symposium was held to bring key players within the roots and tubers and protected agriculture industries together to discuss technical issues, share information on the roles and current initiatives of the various stakeholders and chart a way forward for both sub-sectors.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter