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Boost for organic food to get help with finding markets

Published:Sunday | June 2, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Minister without portfolio in the Agriculture Ministry J.C. Hutchinson views the variety of produce being displayed by secretary for the St Elizabeth Branch of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Khadeen Fullerton, during the St Bess Agri-Fest on Friday

The government is to redouble efforts to increase local production of organic agricultural produce in a bid to reduce imports. 

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, J.C. Hutchinson, made the announcement while addressing farmers at the 2019 staging of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) St Bess Agri-Fest held at the Santa Cruz Community Centre in St Elizabeth on Friday.

Hutchinson indicated that initiatives to increase cultivation of Irish potatoes and onions have already started.

He said castor beans and bamboo, for which there are emerging markets, are also being added to the list.

“Bamboo is going to be one of the biggest crops that we are going to have here in Jamaica. As for castor beans, we are also promoting that; grow any amount of castor beans and we will market it for you. We have programmes that we are now putting in place to market it,” the minister explained.

Hutchinson said the agri ministry is also looking to incorporate red peas and peanuts, emphasising that “we want to make sure that we stop importing all these crops”.

He, however, underscored the need for farmers to be registered if they expect to get assistance under these and other major agricultural initiatives, programmed for implementation in the parish.

“So we are going to be working with the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) through [parish] organisations, and we are going to be working with RADA through the Production and Marketing Organisations (PMOs)… and anybody who wants any assistance must be a member of the JAS or PMO to get [inputs such as] fertilisers, chemicals, or seeds,” the minister said.

Among the other major projects which the government will be undertaking in St Elizabeth, is creation of a 2,400-acre farm at Holland Estate.

Over 220 small farmers will be cultivating plots on the farm as part of efforts to boost agricultural production in the parish

An agro-economic zone is to be established on Holland Estate and will comprise facilities for the storage, grading, drying, packaging, and processing of crops.

“Come the end of this year, you will have a facility where you can market all your produce. We [St. Elizabeth] are going to be producing so that we remain the ‘bread basket’ parish for this country,” Hutchinson said.

In this regard, he encouraged the farmers to continue their cultivations, as “we will find the market for you”.

 “I say to all, no matter what you grow… grow what you eat, eat what you can and can what you can’t… nothing will go to waste,” he added.

The 2019 RADA St Bess Agri-Fest featured various agricultural and horticultural exhibits, livestock displays, and a farmers’ competition, among other activities.

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