Pepper farming heats up - St Catherine cultivator boosted by ministry's assistance
Published: Tuesday | March 10, 2009
Pepper farmer, Raymond Sukarloo (right), and Agro-Business Development Officer of the Agricultural Support Services Project, Peter Edman, examine one of the 72-cell seedling trays at Sukarloo's farm in Nightingale, St Catherine. - contributed
Raymond Sukarloo was elated to hear that the Ministry of Agriculture was assisting farmers islandwide to set up pepper nurseries. He had been waiting for such an opportunity.
"For years, I have been longing to have a nursery and the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP) came along and put up a structure and has been monitoring it," he told JIS News in an interview.
At his eight-acre farm in Nightingale Grove, St Catherine, Sukarloo now has a large greenhouse pepper nursery with thousands of flourishing Scotch bonnet pepper seedlings.
Pepper cultivation under greenhouse conditions has been proven to increase drought tolerance, sustain plant vigour, enhance pollination and build plant resistance against major diseases.
Sukarloo's nursery is one of 16 that are being established under greenhouse conditions by the Ministry of Agriculture through the ASSP in an effort to meet the demand of the agro-processing trade and for sale on the domestic market. Each nursery has the capacity to produce about 94,464 seedlings in six weeks. So far, nine nurseries have been set up and others are in various stages of construction.
Sukarloo explains that his greenhouse now contains 40,000 seedlings, which are cultivated in 200-cell or 72-cell seedling trays.
When the JIS visited his farm recently, the seedlings in the greenhouse were ready for distribution, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), to small farmers in St Catherine. The seedlings are produced in line with a quota set by RADA.
To speed up the sowing operations, Sukarloo constructed an electronic seed-dropping machine, which has the capacity to sow seeds into 100 of the 72-cell trays within an hour.