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JIS News

The Agriculture Ministry, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), is encouraging farmers and other interested persons to get involved in pig farming, in the drive to increase local production to meet the growing demand for pork. This is being done even as RADA, through its training division, heightens public awareness of its role in providing assistance to farmers for the growth of the sector.
The Authority’s aim is to train pig farmers to produce the animals economically and of a high quality to be able to compete successfully on both the local and international markets.
So great was the demand for pork last year, that the Ministry of Agriculture is reporting that farmers had to slaughter their breeding stock to meet that demand.
Director of the Data Bank and Evaluation Division in the Ministry, Michael Pryce informs JIS News that the local pig farming industry produced 7,468,000 kilograms of pork last year. He notes that currently, there are 6,253 pig farmers islandwide, with the majority residing in St. Elizabeth.
Speaking with JIS News about the value of the industry, President of the Pig Farmers’ Association, Delroy Manya says that according to the last survey, Jamaica produced $5 billion worth of pork products in 2003, and that about 85 per cent of the processing needs are being met.
Livestock Specialist, Hector Smith points out that RADA’s role in pig farming is to advise and train farmers. “We advise them how to produce economically and competitively,” he explains, emphasizing that pig farming can create more jobs and provide employment in its spin-off sectors.
Giving more details of RADA’s role, Mr. Smith says that advisory service begins from the construction of the pig farm, right through to management and the total development of the farm. RADA advises on management, record keeping, sanitation, health, production and marketing.
For persons who are interested in starting the process, Mr. Smith says, “you need to bring the plan or idea for your pig farm to us”. Some of the information RADA will need include the size of the intended farm, level of preparation, and the type of production which the farmer wants to get into, whether it is pig breeder or finisher. Farmers who are pig finishers are those who purchase the pigs to fatten them.
As RADA Officers are knowledgeable about the availability of markets, they will also advise the farmer on how to market the pigs. Where farmers already have a market for their product, RADA will inform them how to produce quality pigs to suit that particular market.
The Authority provides information on the pens that are required for the pigs and urges that the farmer should not put all his pigs in one pen.
Mr. Smith points out that the farmer may need a sow’s farrowing pen, a weaning pen, a finishing pen and a boar pen. RADA, he assures, will advise on the construction of the pen to suit the particular class of pig.
The Livestock Specialist also gives information on funding. For those farmers who wish to source bank loans, he says that the bank will require some sort of security. “It may be a land title or cash deposit in the bank or insurance certificate,” he points out.
When presented with the farmer’s plan or idea, the RADA Officer will fine tune it or assist him in drafting an acceptable plan to present to the bank. In addition to that, RADA Officers will, after discussion with the farmer, direct him or her to the right institution.
“Of course, the bank requires you to show how you foresee a cash flow or profit,” Mr. Smith points out, and to get this well needed assistance, RADA’s officers are easily accessible.
Persons who are interested in entering the industry are encouraged to talk with RADA. There is a RADA office in each parish and the office is usually located in the city or major town in the parish, Mr. Smith says. In addition, there are at least 60 extension officers in the farming communities and these officers also have assistants.
If the farmer wants to begin with the genetically improved breeds, the RADA Officer will first examine the farmer’s holding and test the knowledge of the farmer. If all the conditions are satisfied, then the farmer will be encouraged to do so.
Of great benefit to farmers is the training in husbandry practices. The global marketplace demands record keeping and without it, Jamaica cannot trade. In terms of health, it is necessary, especially for quarantine and surveillance purposes.
To supply markets such as the hotel chains, training and traceability are very important. Training is paramount to produce the top quality pork the markets need, while traceability enables the farmer to identify good quality stock from any farm.
In keeping with its mandate, RADA has a registration system, which is ongoing and this helps in disseminating information about the farms that have good quality stock. A RADA registered pig farmer can access information on what is needed and receive it on a timely basis.
Pig farming comes highly recommended, Mr. Smith explains, as it is one of the areas which provides employment in rural areas, in particular. In terms of nutrition, he points out that children and women coming from a home which produces pork and livestock in general, benefit greatly from an improved diet.
The growth of this sub-sector has great potential, he asserts, as the local market is not being fully supplied. The hotel industry, the jerk pork industry, rotisserie pork and the CARICOM market are sometimes undersupplied, he notes.
RADA has links to those markets, he tells JIS News, and as part of the extension services, RADA can inform farmers when there will be a need for pork and where there is a need.
They also link farmers with processors, Mr. Smith tells JIS News. Processors will request pigs of a certain weight and determined size, and RADA can tell the farmers to slaughter pigs at the specified size.
“RADA has capable technical officers and they are meeting the needs of farmers. Overall, RADA has been performing, especially in educating the farmers,” the President of the Pig Farmers’ Association says.
While pig farming can be lucrative, one challenge is the cost of feeds, Mr. Smith says. Price increases for soya bean and corn incur additional costs to the farmer, but the feed companies do not always pass on all the costs to the farmers, he notes.
Another challenge that is being minimized is a glut on the market, so RADA, the Pig Farmers’ Association and the Jamaica Livestock Association (JLA) monitor the situation to ensure a consistent and steady supply.