Farmers urged to increase legume production
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, is hoping for a significant increase in local production to sustain the country’s supply of legumes as well as satisfy export markets.
“I want our farmers to make the most of the vast potential, particularly in terms of growing legumes in Jamaica …. Not only do the legumes help because they are of very high quality protein and it helps with food security, but the other channel is that it provides a good opportunity for us to make some good profit.” He referenced an import bill totalling US$9.4 million for over 7,000 tonnes of legumes, particularly red peas, in 2021.
Charles, who was speaking at the recently held Home Grown Produce Agribusiness symposium in the parish, said the ministry through its initiatives of boosting production through technology and the recent procurement of tractors, one of which will be sent to Manchester, is expecting to see steady increase in legume production.
“From 2020 to 2021, we had a US$1.5-million increase in importing red peas …. It establishes that there is vast opportunity in the market already for us to be able to sell red peas. The figures show that you have a market. We want to reduce importation and increase self-sufficiency and food security.”
Charles said that, in 2022, there were three quarters of consecutive growth in agriculture and he is expecting to see a similar rise in the production of red peas, peanuts and gungo in 2023.
“Even in the pandemic Jamaica recorded in 2020 the highest level of production of over 697,000 of domestic produce. In 2021, you, our farmers, moved that up to over 770, 000 tonnes of domestic produce - (the) highest number ever recorded …. That means the highest production ever recorded in Jamaica will be in 2022 and we are still waiting on that number. But, farmers, it is your number to be proud of and your number to beat ….”
Chief executive officer of Home Grown Produce, Damion Young, who spearheaded the symposium, told The Gleaner that Jamaica continues to import dried gungo and red peas because farmers in areas such as St Elizabeth who specialise in legume production cannot meet the growing local demands.
“From the standpoint of our company, leading up to Christmas last year, we only got 2,500 pounds of red peas from farmers and, by the middle of Christmas, we couldn’t get any …. We need to stimulate the base and expand the cadre of people going into farming.”
Young said, for his company that specialises in legume production and distribution, he will need at least 500 farmers to supply gungo, red peas and peanuts to the company, so he can in turn supply local grocery chains, restaurants, and consumers in the Caribbean.
‘It makes no sense that you can only get a crop for a part of the year and then the next part of the year, you cannot receive it to supply your markets. Some of the markets are opening overseas and those needs have to be met,” he said.