Gov't to provide $50m for Irish potato project
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries has committed $50 million to provide crop care and productivity support for this year's implementation of the National Irish Potato Programme, which will cost $1.6 billion.
This was disclosed by minister without portfolio in the ministry, J.C. Hutchinson, who said the inputs will include pesticides and fertilisers, among other key provisions, adding that "we are going to be increasing productivity by 11 per cent (equating to 17 tonnes per hectare)".
He was speaking at a National Irish Potato Stakeholders' Seminar at the National Irrigation Commission research station in Hounslow, St Elizabeth, on Thursday.
Hutchinson said the programme's outturn for the 2016-17 crop year, which ended in June, saw the sector recording a 99 per cent self-sufficiency rate in local table potato production.
This, he contended, has set the tone for the 2017-18 crop year, which will focus on further boosting productivity.
In this regard, the minister advised that nine validation plots will be established on which training for farmers will be conducted. Additionally, he said 20 farm tours will be conducted for farmers not benefitting from the training exercise.
MODEL FOR OTHER CROPS
The activities, he further stated, will also include the strengthening of marketing agreements or contracts between farmers and buyers.
Hutchinson said that based on its outcomes, the programme has become a model for other crops.
"The National Irish Potato Programme has earned its reputation as a success story for Jamaican agriculture and in addition to that, it has become a model for our import substitution strategy, which we are also now applying to other crops such as onion," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson announced that the ministry's Plant Quarantine Division has finalised negotiations with authorities in the Cayman Islands to facilitate the exportation of local Irish potatoes to that country under a pre-clearance arrangement.
In this regard, he urged farmers to adapt to the changing requirements of the sector while making every effort to practise climate-smart agriculture.
The minister also commended stakeholders supporting the Irish potato programme for their efforts in assisting farmers to increase productivity, thereby repositioning Jamaica to attain self-sufficiency in the crop.