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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the $35 million balance on the $70 million fertiliser subsidy provided by the Government, will be sufficient to keep prices at the prevailing levels up to the end of March.
This, he said, is specifically for those blends of fertilisers used for domestic food crop farmers, which constitute the most vulnerable group.
The Minister, who was speaking in the House of Representatives on March 4, said that alternative arrangements have been worked out to provide similar benefits to sugarcane and banana farmers, who will no longer benefit from the remainder of the $70 million subsidy for the month of March.
“In the case of banana farmers, they will benefit from free supplies of fertilisers to be delivered within a few weeks under the Hurricane Dean Rehabilitation Programme funded by the European Union Banana Support Programme,” he explained.
“With respect to the sugar industry, the Ministry will provide an additional $25 million subsidy to this industry, through the Jamaica Cane Sales Limited, under an arrangement similar to what was executed earlier in the financial year, under a $50 million programme,” he added.
In January, Cabinet approved a series of measures to provide some level of relief to consumers in the wake of continued escalation in food prices. Part of these measures was a $70 million fertiliser subsidy to provide a 10 per cent reduction on the price of the product relative to prices prevailing in December 2007.
Dr. Tufton told the House that the Government continues to be concerned about the world-wide trend in escalating fertiliser prices. He informed that the price of critical raw material such as urea moved from US$200 per tonne in November to US$337 per tonne in February, with similar increases for phosphate and potash from US$420 per tonne to US$900 per tonne and US$320 per tonne to US$430 per tonne, respectively.
He informed that the Government is far advanced in sourcing cheaper raw material from Venezuela and “we are hoping to make a major announcement regarding the conclusion of this initiative in a few weeks”.
He also added that there are plans in place to start the promotion of more efficient use of fertilizer.
“A major part of this strategy will be the demonstration of ‘fertigation’ techniques by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) as part of our extension drive. We will also be engaged in the promotion of organic farming, not only to combat high fertilizer prices, but to maximise earnings,” Dr. Tufton said.