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Juggling act, Some areas to be expanded while others forced to cut funding

Published:Saturday | April 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE MINISTRY of Agriculture will, this year, hike user fees by a total of $500 million, according to Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

The minister was responding to a query from his opposition counterpart, Roger Clarke, on Thursday during a meeting of Parliament's Standing Finance Committee.

Tufton pointed out that the fees charged by a number of agencies in the ministry were too low. He disclosed that increased fees for a number of agencies had already been approved by Cabinet, while others were awaiting its consideration.

Meanwhile, there has been a significant cut in the School Garden Programme, which has fallen from a $35 million allocation in the previous fiscal year, to $10 million.

The agriculture minister said the reduction was inevitable due to resource constraints. Tufton said the 4-H movement, which has responsibility for the project, was seeking to engage partners in the private sector to provide support for the clubs' projects.

On another matter, Tufton said funding for the Screwworm Eradication Programme had been significantly reduced, forcing the ministry to shift its focus from eradicating the New World screwworm to controlling it. The insect causes destructive myiasis in warm-blooded animals, including humans.

Commenting on an initiative to grow rice in Jamaica, Tufton told his colleagues that the programme would be expanded this financial year.

At present, he said, some 200 acres of rice had been planted in St Catherine, St Elizabeth and Westmoreland. According to Tufton, there were plans to plant between 2,000 and 3,000 acres this year. Equipment to assist in the planting of rice has also been acquired from China.

He said a rice unit had been established in his ministry and two experts, trained overseas, have been providing technical assistance to rice farmers.