- NIPP is reporting that more than 1,400 tonnes of Irish potato have been reaped from 142 hectares of farm land, over the past six months.
- The country is on target to be self sufficient in the production of table Irish potato by 2015. The domestic demand is now 80 per cent satisfied.
- The NIPP, which was launched in October 2013, involves 2,500 farmers across nine parishes.
The National Irish Potato Programme (NIPP) is reporting that more than 1,400 tonnes of Irish potato have been reaped from 142 hectares of farm land, over the past six months.
This, as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries continues to promote local production of Irish potatoes, to meet the current consumption demand of 33 million pounds per year.
According to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, the country is on target to be self sufficient in the production of table Irish potato by 2015. The domestic demand is now 80 per cent satisfied.
The NIPP, which was launched in October 2013, involves 2,500 farmers across nine parishes.
Chairman of the NIPP, Donald Robinson, tells JIS News that in the latter part of 2013, the Ministry convened a committee to examine the state of Irish potato production, and devise a strategy to increase production.
The programme was implemented in St. Mary, St. Ann, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, Trelawny, Westmoreland, St. James, and St. Elizabeth.
Twenty-five million dollars was spent to get the initiative off the ground with funds from the Ministry, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
Support also came from a number of sponsors such as Newport Versan, which contributed 100 bags of fertilizer for the Women and Youth Programme; Agro Grace; St. Jago Farm Supplies; Gladstone Berry Potato Corp; T. Geddes Grant; and the Canadian Hunger Fund.
The Canadian Hunger Fund supports the NIPP by assisting with training.
“All farmers who are part of the programme are required to participate in the training…an integral part of this programme. The extension officers are mandated to plan, organise and conduct at least four sessions within their farming districts,” Mr. Robinson explains.
The training sessions include: land preparation; preparation of planting materials; fertilizer, pesticide, and fungicide application; proper crop care management; and post harvest management.
“We have established two half acre demonstration plots in two of the major crop areas in St. Ann and Manchester, and we have organised some farmers in and around these two plots where we run farmer field schools, which provide training that last the entire cropping season.
“We want when these training sessions are completed, these farmers will stay together. So we are doing a number of sessions on capacity building and group dynamics exercises,” Mr. Robinson notes.
Of the 2,500 farmers involved in the programme, a total 185 women and youth are benefitting from a special treatment under a Women and Youth component of the programme. Forty hectares of land have been allocated to these individuals, who will also receive full grant funding and other support to aid in the planting of the crop.
Twenty-six year-old beneficiary, Tanisha Edwards, from Carron Hall in St. Mary describes the Women and Youth component as “one of the best opportunities for ladies and young people, because it is hard for us to get jobs. It is a good initiative that the Government must be commended for.”
“When you go certain places there seems to be the gender thing going on. So I want persons to come and look now, come and see what the females are doing. It is such a wonderful programme. I will encourage women and young people to be part of it. Imagine you can do your own thing and you are getting help to start your own business,” she adds.
Alva Anderson, a 29-year-old farmer from Castle Kelly in St. Ann says the programme has helped him to expand his Irish potato farm.
“I am now farming one and a half acres, up from half acre. I think the programme is very very good; it is helping a lot of young men and women in my area to better our lives. I planted five 50lb bags of Irish Potato last crop season and I reaped twelve 50lb bags from each bag that was planted.
“I plan to expand, gradually, as I learn the techniques and the processes. This is a career that gives you independence. It teaches you how to be an entrepreneur, it teaches self reliance, and it encourages discipline and focus,” Mr. Anderson adds.
Irish potatoes are reaped 12 to 14 weeks after planting. The longer the crop stays in the ground, the greater the yield. The NIPP Chairman is, therefore, encouraging farmers to ensure that crop care programme is at its peak so that they can get maximum yield.
“We are doing some farm tours; we are moving the farmers from the Guys Hill area to Christiana to look at their best practices and to share ideas. The same thing is being done with farmers from Trelawny, St. Elizabeth, Clarendon, and Manchester, to tour the farming areas in the Guys Hill belt and we were impressed with the type of practices that the farmers have on the ground and the type of returns that they are getting,” Mr. Robinson shares.
He says the farmers are very enthused by the support from the Ministry and RADA, noting that over the past four years, the country’s Irish potato imports have drastically decreased.
The Chairman pointed out that the programme is, therefore, “not only putting more money in farmers pockets, but reduces the dependency and the money spent on imports.” He informs that the medium term plan is to export Irish potato to other Caribbean countries.
In 2012, the local market demand for Irish potato reached 16.8 million kilograms, up from 15.4 million kilograms in 2011.