KINGSTON — The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has unveiled a programme under which farmers will get critical inputs enabling them take full advantage of the crop planting season, as the Government seeks to empower them to engage in best practices to strengthen food security.
Under the Growing Resources Obtaining Wealth (GROW) Project, the Ministry is providing for registered farming groups: 1,000 tonnes of fertilizer; a variety of seeds for vegetable production; pesticides for crop care; and small livestock and feed. Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) members and selected sugar cane farmers can also benefit.
Speaking at the launch and press conference at the Ministry, Old Hope Road, Wednesday (November 16), Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, said that small tools such as knapsack sprayers and agricultural forks will also be provided, as the project is to expand production and increase productivity levels.
He noted than an expansive extension support programme accompanies the production drive, to ensure that best practices are used. In addition to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) tractor services, which is available for the programme, four new rubber wheel tractors and eight hand-held tractors will be acquired for use.
Mr. Montague noted also that reliable water sources remain critical to agricultural productivity, as small scale production has been marginal due to reliance on rainfall.
He said that the Ministry is collaborating with the National Irrigation Commission to install water harvesting solutions, in water deficit farming areas such as South St. Ann, South Manchester and South St. Elizabeth, in the amount of $5 million. Additionally, community catchment tanks in selected farming areas will be rehabilitated at a cost of $1.5 million, to provide additional irrigation.
Under GROW, the Ministry will also provide agro-processing grants to qualified community groups, who have feasible ideas for agro-processing at the local level and require machinery support.
Explaining the rationale for this, Mr. Montague noted the considerable strides the Ministry has made in extending the agricultural value chain, with the addition of significant post-harvest processing capacity at Hounslow in St. Elizabeth and Coleyville, Manchester.
"These facilities are crucial, as it is to be recognized that the growth in the sector is driven principally by domestic food crop, an area which small farmers dominate. It is, therefore, critical that in tandem with our efforts to build out large scale agricultural capacity, we move small farmers up the value chain through appropriate focus on agro-processing at the farm gate,” he stated.
Beneficiary farmers will also participate in wholesale markets at tourist centres. Hotel chains and other entities have been engaged for this component of the programme, and their needs identified, to synchronize with what the farmers will have on sale.
“Our discussions with the hotels indicate that there is much value in establishing wholesale farmers markets in the critical tourism areas,” Mr. Montague said.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter