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The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is assisting farmers to better market their crops by strengthening its information gathering system.

This is according portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, who lamented that lack of proper marketing techniques have often hampered the productivity of the nation’s farmers.

“To tackle the problems with production, marketing has always been a serious problem. If the farmers know there are markets, they will produce for those markets, but when farmers produce and can’t sell, it is a terrible turn off and the only way we are going to make that happen is to have proper information,” he said.

Minister Clarke was addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Ewarton Watershed and Farmer’s Co-operative Society at the Ewarton Community Centre in St. Catherine on March 28.

He pointed out that through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA’s) extension officers, the Ministry is “working to see how we can upgrade the information gathering”.

“We want to know when you’re going to plant and what you’re planting so that we can plan the market for it and to go further sometimes to tell you don’t put in any now because we don’t have market for it. Because there are some things that we grow in Jamaica that can only suit our local consumption, and if we can’t eat it off, it doesn’t make sense to over-produce, because there is no market for it,” the Minister said.

He called on farmers to be honest when giving information so that extension officers can have an adequate picture of the quantity of crops being produced.

The Minister noted that for instance, farmers can call the extension officer in their parish to give information on how much Irish potato they are planting at any given time.
The extension officer will then know “that so much Irish potato was put into the ground and then he can start to connect you with the people in the marketplace who are trading in Irish potatoes”.

In this vein, Minister informed that the Ministry currently has “a great programme going with Irish (potatoes), noting that persons who were previously importing Irish potatoes into the country, are now working with the local farmers to produce this crop.

“Some have even brought in the seeds, some helping with fertilizer and working with the farmers to produce because they are the ones who are going to benefit by selling it. And if there is a little shortage, those are the ones who are going to bring it in,” he said.

Mr Clarke said the Ministry is working to increase Irish potato production to 100 per cent, up from the 80 per cent produced last year. “We want to go further because Trinidad has some interest. We want to produce so that we can even export,” he said.

“We are on a path, our task is to produce. This is going to be a tough year as far as finances go, but the Ministry of Agriculture is going to be out there mobilizing and working with the farmers to make sure that we achieve this ‘eat what we grow; grow what we eat’ concept because that is the only way that we are going to survive,” the Minister said.

By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter