Let's use agro parks to combat drought, says Kellier
Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
Derrick Kellier, the acting minister of agriculture and fisheries, has announced that the ministry has begun to put measures in place to make agro parks and greenhouse farming a viable option to combat Jamaica's ongoing drought conditions.
"If the projections of the Meteorological Service hold, in terms of a worsening of the drought situation going forward, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will employ additional measures to secure the nation's food supply," said Kellier, while giving the keynote address at the opening of the Bethel Town Agricultural Cooperative Society's new sorrel drink processing facility in Bethel Town, Westmoreland, on Thursday.
"We are currently conducting an audit of the available unutilised greenhouse capacity in the country with a view to working with greenhouse farmers to maximise production with our greenhouses," noted Kellier. "We also intend to use all the idle capacity in our agro sector, and we will speak more definitively to the package of possible assistance after Cabinet deliberates on this matter."
SPARED THE WORST
The acting agriculture minister also said that food shortage has been staved off in Jamaica, thanks to both the agro parks and the irrigation systems that have been put in place across the island.
"We have been spared the worst of the impact (of the drought), in terms of shortages, due to the impact of the irrigation schemes we have installed in the last few years and the advent of the agro parks, which are booming," continued Kellier. "While vegetables have not been as abundant as they were before the drought, enough supply is still available. Our agro parks are still additional lands to be engaged, and we are working assiduously with our farmers in the parks to ensure that every square inch of land in the parks is utilised."
Kellier's comments mirrored those of Eastern Westmoreland's member of parliament, Luther Buchanan, who earlier had announced plans to establish an agro park for the production of a number of food plants in his constituency.
"I have entered upon the reference of securing approximately 165 acres of land that has laid for more than two decades as idle land," said Buchanan. "The Ministry of Agriculture is now working out the methodology by which we will enter upon the reference of establishing a proper agro park on that 165 acres of land so our farmers can be empowered to supply sorrel, Irish potato, and pineapple, among other crops."