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  • Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, says sustainable growth of the agricultural sector requires transformation of the irrigation process.
  • The Minister informed that the Government will be examining the most productive lands in the southern belt of the island with a view to fixing irrigation problems.
  • Mr. Hutchinson said that irrigation will play a key role in the successful development of the Agro-Economic Zones, which will provide farmers with a “one-stop- shop” for grading, packaging and processing their produce.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, says sustainable growth of the agricultural sector requires transformation of the irrigation process.

He pointed out that with issues such as inadequate water supply and climate change negatively impacting the growth of crops, structured and planned management of water resources is important.

Mr. Hutchinson was addressing the official opening and introductory ceremony of a four-day training workshop, at the Ministry’s offices in St. Andrew, on August 22.

The Minister informed that the Government will be examining the most productive lands in the southern belt of the island with a view to fixing irrigation problems.

“Our focus will be on the plains of St. Catherine, Clarendon and South St. Elizabeth, inclusive of the cane lands in south St. Catherine and Clarendon,” he noted.

Mr. Hutchinson said that irrigation will play a key role in the successful development of the Agro-Economic Zones, which will provide farmers with a “one-stop- shop” for grading, packaging and processing their produce.

He emphasised the timeliness of the workshop, especially as his Ministry assists in the process of improving soil, water and crop-management practices to increase crop production.

Mr. Hutchinson commended the NIC for its foresight in organising the workshop and looks forward to the implementation of the knowledge gained to aid in the advancement of the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, NIC Chairman, Senator Aubyn Hill, said the agency welcomes the programme, “as we must ensure that the water quality that is being delivered to our customers is in keeping with global standards and certification”.

“This will enable us to contribute more effectively by delivering water of a high standard to the agricultural sector, which has been identified as one of the key engines of growth for the Jamaican economy,” he added.

The NIC Chairman noted that the irrigation programme would benefit his agency’s staff, farmers in St. Catherine and St. Elizabeth and other stakeholder agencies.

The training workshop, organised by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), is entitled ‘Optimizing Irrigation Water Management to Improve Crop Output and Water Quality Control’.

The workshop forms part of a three-year programme designed to optimise the use of irrigated water for best practices resulting in better crop yield and to increase water quality in the Rio Cobre basin by identifying sources of contamination.

That programme is primarily being funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at a cost of $23 million, with additional funding from the NIC.

The Ministries of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Economic Growth and Job Creation, along with other stakeholders, are collaborating on the programme.

During the four days of the workshop, Technical Officer from the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, Lena Heng and Manager of Agronomic Research and Development at Sentek Technologies in Adelaide, South Australia, Peter Buss, will conduct training activities.

Field visits to introduce stakeholders to aspects of the use of nuclear and isotopic techniques in soil, water and nutrient management will also be undertaken.