Reaping of Irish potato, planted under a project involving the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Newport Fersan, Agro Grace, and the Christiana Potato Growers, is now taking place at locations across the island.
Cyril Chambers from the Marketing Development Unit of Agro Grace told JIS News that the crop was cultivated on nine demonstration plots in nine parishes across the island. These are Carlton, St. James; Kinloss, Trelawny; Woodland, St. Elizabeth; Kentucky, Westmoreland; Cascade, St. Ann; Ketish, St. Catherine; Sherwood Forrest, Portland; Top Mountain, St. Andrew; and Albion Mountain, St. Thomas.
He informed that the project is in keeping with the national objective to make Jamaica self sufficient in Irish potato production by 2015.
“It (the project) came out of an idea in trying to support the national Irish Potato programme. We thought that in order to expand the production of the crop, the traditional areas of Guys Hill and Christiana could not do it alone. So we thought of going into non-traditional areas that have cool climatic conditions similar to Guys Hill and Christiana, but where there has been (little or no production) for the last 30 or 40 years”, he said.
Mr. Chambers, who spoke to JIS News following the reaping of the crop in Carlton on Tuesday (March 20), said the plots were established to demonstrate to farmers, the feasibility and profitability of producing the tuber in non-traditional areas. He said the yield from all nine demonstration plots was successful.
Parish Marketing Officer at RADA, St. James, Saleem Clarke, told JIS News that the move to achieve self-sufficiency in Irish potato production will have a two-fold effect in terms of improving the earnings of farmers, and reducing expenditure on imports.
He said farmers are only producing 35 per cent of the Irish potatoes being consumed locally, and with increased production, the import bill for the produce can be cut by up to 50 per cent in the short-term.
Deputy Parish Agricultural Manager with RADA St. James, Sadie Dixon-Bennett, said farmers in the parish are enthusiastic about the prospects for the crop, noting that very soon; St. James could become the leading Irish potato-producing location in the island.
Meanwhile, Carlton farmer, Glenviel Wynn, on whose property the demonstration plot was established, is pleased with the yield. He said there is “great deal of potential” for the crop in that area.
“From one bag of Irish potato you can reap up to 15 bags, which is significant. You are getting 15 bags to one; so this can earn you some good money,” he pointed out.
By Bryan Miller, JIS Reporter