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Agro-processors push for more pepper

Published:Wednesday | March 16, 2016 | 3:00 AMTameka Gordon
File Pepper plant on a farm in St Mary.

Jamaica Agro-Processors Association (JAPA) wants Jamaica to focus on developing the local variety of the red pepper to produce at commercially viable levels as raw material for food processors and for fresh produce exports in sufficient quantities to compete with the West Indian red pepper.

JAPA says Trinidad reaps roughly 40,000 to 50,000 pounds per acre of West Indian red, while Jamaica yields 25,000 to 30,000 peppers per acre, partly due to the lingering effects of the drought. Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are also getting higher yields on the WI red.

Additionally, the agro-processors plan to step up its lobby for government support to create a virus-free seed bank for the local Scotch bonnet variety, which it also depends on getting from local farmers to feed production.

"We can never have enough of our Scotch bonnet available for processors," said JAPA's immediate past president, Michael Ming, at a meeting at the JEA secretariat last week.

In addition to a more scientific focus on production as well as land mapping to help farmers decide which areas are more suited for the various crops, JAPA also plans to lobby Government for access to lands for "experimental crops".

Ming handed over the presidency to Andrew Gray of Gray's Peppers following the association's AGM when a new set of directors was elected.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com