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Pepper farmers in St. Elizabeth stand to benefit from the establishment of a hot pepper processing facility in Hounslow in the parish.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, making the announcement at a town hall meeting at the St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Pedro Plains on Friday (February 18), said that the facility should start operations in about two months.
He informed that the company setting up the processing plant is a major exporter of hot pepper sauce to Central America and Europe.
“We have a competitive advantage in hot pepper so I want to see in this irrigation district, farmers doing the training sessions that we will provide to start planting and growing hot pepper, because that company is going to contract a lot of farmers to grow as much pepper as possible to make hot pepper sauce,” he stated.
In the meantime, he urged farmers in the parish to take advantage of the increased support being provided through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) to increase their yields.
“We are not just encouraging you to grow more, we have provided additional RADA (extension and marketing officers), who have to be re-trained every year. We are providing post harvest facility and we are giving you water management techniques, so that the cost of the water is not as expensive as it would have been if you did not manage it properly,” he stated.
Minister Tufton said that the Government will not relent on its mission to foster increased production so that the appetite for imported foods can be reduced.
He urged that players in the sector to manage the land and water resources efficiently, so that agriculture can be sustainable.
“How we manage the critical resources of land and water to ensure that we get the best yields from the soil out of our agricultural effort is crucial. We have the best lands, and we have to make the best use of them,” Dr. Tufton stated.
He informed that “we will be going through our database to look at persons, who have access to lands by ownership or by leased arrangements, and provide information and technical support and access to low cost money to (help them) invest in agriculture.”