Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that his Ministry will be seeking to engage farmers and land owners in putting their arable lands into optimum use.
The Minister was speaking at a Town Hall meeting on Monday (February 15) at the St. Dorothy’s Anglican Church, Church Pen, Old Harbour in St.Catherine.
“We are going to be contacting those persons who own the most arable, the best possible lands. We want to sit down with you and we want to have dialogue with you to explore the best possibilities,” Dr. Tufton told the audience.
He said that, over the last year and a half, the Ministry has been implementing additional services to enhance the capacity of the sector to increase production and productivity.
A farmer from Old Harbour, St. Catherine, Gussie O’Sullivan (right), speaking with Agriculture Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (seated), about the water situation in the Colbeck community following Monday’s (February 15) Town Hall meeting at the St. Dorothy’s Anglican Church, Church Pen.
“In this parish, for example, we have doubled RADA’s (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) capacity. (There) are more Extension Officers now than you have ever had since RADA was created, which means that there is more technical support available,” he stated.
The Minister said that this was the case throughout the island, as the Ministry has added nearly 100 new extension officers over the last two years. He also noted that extension officers are required to be recertified every year and are mandated to a minimum of 60 hours of training.
“We want them to keep abreast of the current developments in the sector,” he said.
Dr. Tufton added that a marketing officer has been assigned to each parish to advise farmers.
“Over the last two years, we have employed 20 new marketing officers in the Ministry, because we believe that farmers should not grow and then look to see if there’s a market. They must be given the intelligence on what markets exist,” he said.
He stated that the marketing officers will co-ordinate with the hotels, supermarkets, agro-processors and the export market, to get information on availability and pass it on to farmers.