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KINGSTON — Domestic food crop production for the January to March quarter was the highest in 11 years, with some 147,378 tonnes produced, 24.4 per cent more than the corresponding quarter for 2010.

This increased production propelled the agricultural sector to grow by 14 per cent overall for the quarter, when compared with the similar period last year.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton told a press conference at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road offices, today that the increase in crop production was attributed to very good weather conditions, and the continuation of a number of programmes that the Ministry has pursued under its production and productivity thrust.

“Very important also is the efforts of our farmers in the field. We saw a fairly significant increase in productivity, not just production. There was a 5.4 per cent increase in acreages under production; however, we saw a 24.4 per cent increase in overall production. What that is saying is that we had better yields during that quarter,” Dr. Tufton pointed out.

All crops recorded increases in production, with vegetables increasing by some 20,000 tonnes or 55 per cent. This was mainly influenced by an 80 per cent increase in cabbage production; tomato, 82.7 per cent; pumpkin, 36 per cent; carrot, 37.8 per cent; lettuce, 118 per cent; cucumber, 67 per cent; pak choi, 72.09 per cent; and string beans, 97 per cent.

The Minister said that tubers increased by 21 per cent, potatoes by 12 per cent, and yams by 1.3 per cent.                                                 

Meanwhile, Dr. Tufton noted that longer term traditional crops, which required six to nine months of cultivation, were impacted by Tropical Storm Nichole at the beginning of the last quarter of 2010, preceded by severe drought. “Despite that, coffee saw a 51 per cent increase in volumes reaped, cocoa saw a 182 per cent in volumes reaped, sugar a marginal 1.2 per cent, and bananas, a decline of 14 per cent,” he said.

The parish of Clarendon saw significant increase in production of 39.4 per cent, followed by St. Ann, with 38 per cent; St. Elizabeth, 33.6 per cent; and Hanover and Manchester, 32 per cent.

“We are encouraged by the performance of the farmers of Jamaica. We are encouraged by the introduction of the acceptance of new and improved approaches toward production, particularly in our cash crop areas, where we are seeing much better consistency of output in the critical crop areas, such as lettuce, cabbage and tomato,” the Agriculture Minister said.

Dr. Tufton argued that this is good, not just for local consumers, but other critical markets, such as the tourism industry.

“The response from the tourism sector and the general public is that the quality of the output is improving and is more consistent. We want to commend our farmers for that, and those within the Ministry, particularly the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), who have provided critical extension and technical support in introducing best practices,” the Minister added.

 

By APLHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter