Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine:
AGRICULTURE AND Fisheries Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has urged farmers in St Catherine and Clarendon with arable lands to venture into large-scale crop production, particularly cane and rice.
Tufton was addressing the cultivators who jointly have 4,000 acres of arable lands at a business meeting of the Arable Lands Irrigated and Growing for the Nation Programme (ALIGN) in Old Harbour, recently.
With regards to cane, he argued that there was more to cultivating the crop than for the sole purpose of sugar production.
"We need to appreciate the prospects for the future for the cane industry, and I say the cane industry and not the sugar cane industry. Because I believe that the attitude and the mindset have to change, as it relates to cultivating cane. There are so many other things that the cane can actually produce that have a revenue stream ,and that's our approach to the industry," Tufton emphasised.
Last year, Jamaica produced 1.3 million tonnes of cane; however, Tufton indicated that over the next three years, approximately 3.5 million tonnes will be required. In fact, he said a delegation from the China-based company COMPLANT International Sugar Industry Company Limited will arrive in the island this week, to discuss plans to establish a refinery to convert brown sugar into white sugar.
rice, critical player
Turning to rice, Dr Tufton cited the crop as a critical player in the economy, which, in addition to creating employment, could address the country's food-security issues. As a result, he noted that the Government has implemented a number of initiatives to boost production.
In February 2009, Tufton launched ALIGN, which seeks to revolutionise agriculture by re-engaging all un-utilised and under-utilised lands with irrigation infrastructure back into production.
To date, this initiative has seen the return of approximately 7,000 acres of land into cane, vegetable and cash-crops production, mainly in areas such as Bernard Lodge and Bushy Park in St Catherine, and in Clarendon. The ALIGN project is implemented jointly with the National Irrigation Commission.