Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Strawberry farmers to benefit from $5-million allocation

Published:Monday | September 7, 2020 | 12:10 AM
Consultant agronomist in charge of protected agriculture at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Webster McPherson (left), and strawberry farmer Lester Murray examine a container of strawberries at an Adam Valley Farm in Maidstone, Manchester, rec
Consultant agronomist in charge of protected agriculture at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Webster McPherson (left), and strawberry farmer Lester Murray examine a container of strawberries at an Adam Valley Farm in Maidstone, Manchester, recently.

The island’s major strawberry farmers are to benefit from an allocation of $5 million to assist them in the growth and development of the crop for the 2020-21 season under the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries’ Production Incentive Programme.

The disclosure was made by consultant agronomist in charge of protected agriculture at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Webster McPherson, who said $3 million would go towards providing crop nutrition.

“We’ll also be looking at pest and disease management assistance to the farmers to the tune of about $2 million,” McPherson said.

Strawberries, which require cooler temperatures, are found in areas in Jamaica in excess of 2,000 feet above sea level. These include Guy’s Hill in St Catherine, Adams Valley in Manchester, Gordon Town and Newcastle in St Andrew, and sections of Trelawny and St Mary.

A total of 50,000 pounds of strawberry is being produced per annum, representing 10 per cent of local consumption.

Meanwhile, McPherson informed that there is tremendous potential for import substitution, as local strawberries are now being embraced by purchasers because it tastes better and has a longer shelf life.

The consultant agronomist further stated that a revolving project was started last planting season where 23,500 plantlets valued at $3.5 million were given to farmers, who are expected to return twice the number of plantlets.

Under the $1.6-billion Production Incentive Programme, strawberry is among nine crops being targeted for increased production. The others include ginger, hot peppers, Irish potatoes, onion, sweet yam, dasheen and cassava.

Over 4,000 farmers are expected to benefit from the programme, directly and indirectly.