Wed | Jun 26, 2019

St Mary farmers want specialised ploughs

Published:Friday | April 26, 2019 | 12:28 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Brother and sister, Latoya and Carlton Roberts of the Derry Banana and Plantain Farmers Group in St Mary, show off a bunch of Fhia 25 bananas from the farm of Kenneth McLaughlin, chairman of the group, at Monday’s St Mary Agri-Expo at Gray’s Inn Sports Complex, Annotto Bay.
Brother and sister, Latoya and Carlton Roberts of the Derry Banana and Plantain Farmers Group in St Mary, show off a bunch of Fhia 25 bananas from the farm of Kenneth McLaughlin, chairman of the group, at Monday’s St Mary Agri-Expo at Gray’s Inn Sports Complex, Annotto Bay.

Cultivators in the Derry Banana and Plantain Farmers Group in western St Mary are appealing for agricultural organisations to assist them in procuring heavy machinery on caterpillar tracks to plough the mostly sloping land on which they farm.

President Kenneth McLaughlin said that traditional four-wheeled tractors struggle on the inclines, making it almost impossible to properly prepare land for planting.

“Agencies like JAS (Jamaica Agricultural Society) and RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority), we would like them to do more for the small farmers,” McLaughlin told The Gleaner.

“For instance, where we do farming, the four-wheel tractor cannot plough our land, so we need a crawler. ... The crawler is more suitable for us.”

McLaughlin, who was attending the 33rd staging of the St Mary Agri-Expo on Easter Monday, also said that drought conditions had badly hit farmers in the area.

“This year has been very rough, because from last year October, we haven’t gotten any rainfall so as to soak the soil, so right now the plants are drying out. We need some good rain, a lot of rainfall right now.”

However, the Derry farmers’ luck could change soon with expected showers during May, one of the wettest months of the year.

Delightful scenes greeted patrons who turned out for the St Mary Agri-Expo at Gray’s Inn Sports Complex in Annotto Bay on Easter Monday.

THE DISPLAY

Horticulture, farming, animal husbandry, and manufacturing were some of the areas that were on display, mixed with presentations from cultural groups, gospel music, farm queen competition, cheerleading, various fun competitions and the Easter tradition of kite flying, all in one oval.

Despite the complaints, the Derry farmers’ booth looked quite attractive and drew lots of attention from the crowd, especially the life-size Fhia bananas.

“I do mostly Fhia bananas, and I have a market in Lucky Hill, St Mary, [for] chips, but there is a wide market for the Fhia banana, so we want to encourage farmers to plant more,” McLaughlin urged.

“The All Island Banana Growers Association also has a new factory building in Trinity, St Mary, ... so we’re hoping that it will open shortly so that we can sell our produce there.”

While the main focus of the 25-member Derry group is banana and plantain, some members have ventured into cash crops, as well as dairy and poultry farming.

“We’re a very active farmers group in our area and we always encourage young people to come on board,” McLaughlin said.

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