Renewed push to boost local beef, milk production
In a bid to significantly reduce the US$100 million spent annually to import beef and milk from countries like Argentina and Brazil, local stakeholders are now fine-tuning plans to establish a Jamaica Livestock Board, which they hope will help to boost local production of these foods.
This will see the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) transitioning into the Jamaica Livestock Board, Devon Sayers, project coordinator at the JDDB, told Trelawny cattle farmers recently.
“Today, we are on a fact-finding mission and to point you, farmers, towards reviving an industry which was devastated in the 1970s when it became cheaper to import milk powder,” said Sayers, who also noted that with the emergence of mad cow disease, some farmers just decided it was best to break away from the sector.
According to Sayers, the cattle industry for beef and milk, coupled with the rearing of small ruminants, is on the rebound, hence the confidence that Jamaica can now produce more.
“The aim is to encourage you farmers who have leased lands here in Trelawny to look towards investing in cattle rearing,” said Sayers. “We are prepared to provide you with technical knowledge to include pasturing and grass cultivation, which will help you manage climate change.”
He added that plans were afoot for the JDDB to import semen from the Red Angus and Black Angus cattle to boost the local stock.
Trelawny farmer Clive Bennett, who is raising cattle on former sugar lands near the Long Pond Sugar Factory, lamented that raising cows is an expensive venture when factors such as land leases are considered.
“When you pay $5,000 per acre to lease the land, you have no money left to set up pasture, plant grass, and buy animals,” he complained. “There has to be a way to encourage farmers.”
Seemingly supporting Bennett’s position, Lenworth Fulton, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, called for more support for farmers.
“The land must be made available to farmers with agreements tied to production,” said Fulton. “The pathway to accessing low-cost financing through the Jamaica Development Bank must become much easier.”
Asked whether the Government would be receptive to providing the farmers with the lands for cattle farming, Agriculture Minister Floyd Green said that it is something worth consideration.
“Land distribution to these farmers has to be given some consideration, however minimal,” said Green.