- The proposed production target is 600 hectares for autumn; 600 hectares for spring; and 50 hectares for summer.
- The Ministry will be providing support in the sum of $68 million towards the autumn and spring crops.
- Increasing local potato production is one of the strategies being employed to reduce the country’s high food import bill.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), on October 23 launched the Irish Potato Programme for the crop year 2013/14.
The proposed production target is 600 hectares for autumn; 600 hectares for spring; and 50 hectares for summer. In order to achieve this, the Ministry will be providing support in the sum of $68 million towards the autumn and spring crops.
Speaking at the launch held at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in St. Andrew, portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, noted that increasing local potato production is one of the strategies being employed to reduce the country’s high food import bill.
He said that the programme aims to: improve access to markets for farmers, who plant Irish potato; supply 100 per cent of the national demand (15 million kilograms) of table Irish potato by 2015, in keeping with the RADA marketing plan; and provide crop care support (chemicals) for 50 per cent of the targeted acreages for fall and spring.
The initiative also seeks to introduce and pilot the use of new potato varieties for the production of fries. Two hectares of potato, specifically for this purpose, will be grown and processed during the 2013/14 season.
Minister Clarke also informed that private grants are being pursued for 40 hectares for 2013. These hectares will be specifically for use by young people and women.
He further disclosed that the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) will be providing $50 million to retrofit a storage facility at Lydford in St. Ann. “We will also be making available $50 million if we have to intervene to stabilize prices…we want to make sure that the price doesn’t drop below the production cost for our farmers,” he stated.
As it relates to reports of a shortage of Irish potato on the local market, the Agriculture Minister explained that “in a sense, it was kind of deliberate, because local farmers had some Irish potato still. For six or seven months we never imported one pound of Irish potato into this country, and if we are going to encourage our farmers to be in production, we are not going to allow them to be defeated by imports. Irish potato can be grown in Jamaica…we are putting the facilities in place so that we can be self-sufficient, and also export. There is market for it in the region”.
The Minister expressed confidence that the production targets for the 2013/14 crop year will be achieved. “Our confidence is bolstered by the outstanding performance that we have achieved over the past two years,” he stated.
Minister Clarke informed that in 2012, the local market demand for table potato reached 16.8 million kilograms, up from 15.4 million kilograms 2011.
“The good news is that the country was almost 80 per cent self-sufficient in the production of table potatoes in 2012,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Minister Clarke noted that in the last quarter, the agricultural sector grew by 8.4 per cent.