FAO strengthening post-harvest care in Jamaica
EACH YEAR in the Caribbean millions of dollars are lost through food wastage due to poor reaping and post-harvest handling, storage and packaging, a situation the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working to correct. Through its Technical Cooperation Programme, the FAO has been working with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), via its national extension service, to educate Jamaican farmers on how to reduce losses along the food chain in Jamaica, an initiative which is also being duplicated in the wider CARICOM sub-region.
"We are aware that the country spends millions of dollars importing food, and the Government, primarily through RADA, is attempting to increase production to reduce that food import bill. We are aware also that you can have the best produce every day, but if it is not harvested properly, you can stand to lose more than half of your produce," Dr Jerome Thomas, the FAO's representative in Jamaica, told farmers at the Guy's Hill Cooperative in St Mary on Wednesday. "So you have to be mindful how you harvest, transport and store the produce."
Thomas was speaking at a ceremony to mark the end of a series of post-harvesting interventions hosted by the FAO in collaboration with RADA, at which he presented metal tables and a condenser fan to be used to reduce post-harvest losses related to Irish potatoes. Additionally, farmers from the parishes of Manchester, St Ann, St Mary, St Catherine and Westmoreland received 413 crates to assist with reaping and transporting their produce.
Lenworth Fulton, RADA's chief executive officer, used the occasion to reinforce the vital importance of proper post-harvesting practices, noting that it is very important to give customers the quality they need and to also meet global standards. He reiterated RADA's commitment to providing guidance around the process while improving the quality of life of farmers.
Doret Gordon, vice-president of the Guys Hill United Farmers' Producer Management Organization, commented on how the FAO's contribution assisted the farmers. "We are very grateful to the FAO for the presentation they have made to us today - crates and tables that we really needed - and we are going to make optimal use of the items," she promised.
VOTE OF THANKS
Another farmer, Sheena Stevenson, also expressed gratitude for well-needed gifts. "I want to thank the FAO for handing over these items that will assist us in post-harvesting practices to enhance the quality of our produce that we put into the wider market. It will also help us to save more money in our pockets and improve our lives," she said.
The crates will be accessible to farmers for reaping and transporting produce within the respective parishes in a process that will be managed by RADA parish offices.
The handover follows several post-harvesting interventions in Jamaica and the CARICOM region, including training sessions, creation of a national action plan in collaboration with RADA marketing officers, and research with farmers from Jamaica's main Irish potato-producing parishes.