Sat | Jan 28, 2023

Agriculture Minister urges farmers to increase local production of legumes

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2023 | 9:09 AM
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, speaking at Home Grown Produce and Agri-Business Ltd’s Agri-Business Symposium held at Tropics View Hotel in Manchester on January 19, 2023. - Contributed photo.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, is urging farmers to increase local production of legumes as a part of efforts to reduce Jamaica's food import bill.

In 2021, Jamaica imported a total of 7,424 tonnes of red peas valued at US$9.4 million, the Ministry noted.

This represents an increase of 416 tonnes over the previous year of 2020 (7,008 tonnes of red peas valued at US$7.9 million) and an increase of US$1.5 million spent on red peas imports.

In comparing the import figures, Charles Jr endorsed the Home Grown Produce and Agri-Business Ltd's Legumes Expansion Project while speaking at their Agri-Business Symposium held at Tropics View Hotel in Manchester on Thursday, January 19.

The project, which seeks to increase legumes production by training over 120 farmers, aged 18 and above, in peanut and red peas cultivation, will assist in helping Jamaica reduce its import bill and provide farmers with an opportunity to increase their earnings.

“It establishes the importance of what Home Grown Produce and Agri-Business Ltd is doing today. There is vast opportunity in the market already for us to be able to sell red peas,” he stated.

Charles Jr expressed that greater focus should be placed on legumes like red peas and peanuts and with support from various agencies like the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Agro-Investment Corporation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries could see even more growth added to the previous quarters of growth in 2022.

The agriculture minister also encouraged the farmers in attendance to share the knowledge and information that they gained at the symposium with their fellow farmers and children.

“Farmers must organise in associations so that we have better cooperation across the country. We must go into the schools and teach the youngsters about the importance of growing smart and eating smart. You don't have to wait on the ministry. You go to church; preach it in church. You go to school; preach it in schools. You have community associations; tell them the minister says that grow smart, eat smart means production through efficiency.

“All of you who are here must be trainers, not just listeners. We want to have training of trainers so that you can go out and train other farmers. Don't keep it to yourself,” said Charles Jr.

Stating that US$9.4 million worth of red peas was imported in 2021 and that it was likely to be more in 2022, the agriculture minister said there is enough money to go around if we all spread the knowledge and share best practices and get everyone up to a standard where we can have the highest level of production in the country.

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