JIS News

State Minister for Agriculture, J.C. Hutchinson has informed that the Fruit Tree Crop Programme is expected to assist some 200 farmers to establish between 400 and 450 hectares of orchard crops during this fiscal period.
He also pointed out that the project supported the establishment of over 200 hectares of fruit tree orchards on farmers’ holdings during the last financial year.
Making his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House last week, the State Minister said that the programme for this year should generate employment for over 1,500 people.
Mr. Hutchinson noted that some $25 million was being provided in support, through seedlings and land preparation, and grants to 100 of these farmers involved with 220 hectares.
He noted that data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reveals that some US$20.5 million (J$1.4 billion) worth of fruit juice concentrate was imported annually. “This has to be a travesty in a country that has the ideal conditions for producing a wide range of tropical fruits. Against this background, the Ministry has been building its capacity to sustain a viable fruit tree crop industry,” he said. Mr. Hutchinson explained that the Fruit Tree Crop Programme was so structured that anyone who wanted to go into orchard cultivation would be provided with seedlings of the non-traditional crops, such as june plum, guava, naseberry, ackee, sweet sop, sour sop, jackfruit, apple and cashew, among others.
“These seedlings are provided free of cost and the farmer is also given $25,000 per acre up to five acres, to assist with inputs and preparation of the land,” he said, adding that there was a large market for these fruits both locally and internationally.
“Already, throughout all parishes, farmers have been showing much interest in the programme. The combined capacity of the Ministry’s modern nurseries can produce enough high quality planting material for 1,000 hectares annually,” he informed.
The duty on fruit concentrate is 86 per cent and if applied, would have generated revenue of US$28.9 million, the State Minister asserted. “However, we almost always provide duty waivers to these importers and so all the potential revenue that could have been collected is foregone. In a scenario in which waiver of duty becomes the rule rather than the exception, our manufacturers will never be encouraged to link backwards to primary production,” he noted.

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