Tue | May 17, 2022

RADA to address challenges facing St Thomas farmers

Published:Monday | January 24, 2022 | 12:09 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Bevene Martin-Dickinson (left), parish agriculture manager, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, leads Pearnel Charles Jr, minister of agriculture and fisheries and Franklyn Witter (partially hidden), minister of state in the Ministry of Agriculture a
Bevene Martin-Dickinson (left), parish agriculture manager, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, leads Pearnel Charles Jr, minister of agriculture and fisheries and Franklyn Witter (partially hidden), minister of state in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as they toured an onion farm in Albion, St Thomas on Wednesday.

Hefty input costs and the lack of a reliable tractor are atop the list of challenges being faced by farmers in St Thomas.

The eastern parish consists of two agro parks, boasting a membership of 40 farmers who are all dedicated to intensive agricultural production.

The local farmers depend heavily on the support of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which has an extension staff that is geared towards providing technical services and advice on how they can improve production and productivity.

The team, through special programmes, is also able to supply farmers with agricultural inputs such as seed and fertilisers.

Speaking with The Gleaner, RADA’s parish agricultural manager for St Thomas, Bevine Martin Dickenson, admitted that the farmers of both agro parks in the parish are plagued by a number of challenges that the authority hopes to address in short order.

“One of the biggest challenges that the farmers have in this highly productive area is the use of an efficient tractor. RADA has a tractor but, because of the volume of work, and with the tractor serving both eastern and western St Thomas, it often goes out for repairs, and so that’s a challenge for the farmers for timely production,” she shared.

Martin Dickenson revealed that assistance was sought from the Agro-Investment Corporation, which lent them a tractor out of Clarendon, allowing the local farmers the ability to maximise on preparing their land for mass onion production early in the season.

In the meantime, RADA, she shared, is securing an additional tractor to serve the parish, which is slated to be ready by April.

“We have already received the implements. We have received a plough, an arrow and a bedder, as attachments to the tractor. so they can efficiently do land preparations for the farmers,” she said, adding that a mechanical planter is also being sourced to assist in the area.

The parish agriculture manager listed, too, as a major challenge, the deplorable conditions of the farm roads in St Thomas.

She shared, “They need improvement and so we will be giving that information to RADA through our Extension Activities Services Management System for us to get our roads under the national programme. Each year, we are allocated two roads and so this year, we are going to ensure that one of the roads within the onion belt is addressed.”

Martin Dickenson echoed the farmers’ cry that the constantly increasing input expenses have been a blight on production.

According to her, “In one week, fertiliser increased twice and that’s a challenge for planning and cost of production, that is increasing each production cycle.”

Reiterating the authority’s commitment to back the farmers, the parish manager added, “The opportunities are that they have RADA’s support and our experienced technical teams at RADA, St Thomas, supported by the other agencies who provide additional technical information to them so they can improve their production and productivity.”

shanna.monteith@gleanerjm.co