St James eyes increase in cocoa production
Nagra Plunkett, Assignment Coordinator
WITH WORLDWIDE cocoa bean prices fetching as much as US$3,135 (approximately J$257,070) per barrel in 2010, chairman of the St James Association of Branch Societies, Glendon Harris, is pushing for a revitalisation of cocoa farming in the western parish.
"We will be having a nursery right here at Montpelier showgrounds, and I am sure that will stimulate more cocoa production in the parish," said Harris, who is also the president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS).
"We have seen the loss of coffee in the parish, but we will continue to work with the (agriculture) minister to ensure that High Mountain St James coffee, (and) the aroma is coming up in the parish of St James."
The JAS president, who was speaking during the official ceremony at the 27th staging of the Montpelier Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show on Monday in St James, publicly thanked the Cocoa Industry Board for including the parish in a cocoa-production project aimed at increasing output levels.
"If you support us, then we will move this parish from the low levels it is at economically, to a much higher level. Minister (Derrick) Kellier will tell you that the economic survey shows St James - even with tourism high and as the tourism mecca - we are still in the bottom-five poorest parishes," said Harris, who is also the mayor of Montego Bay.
"The parishes that are heavily into agriculture are not in the bottom-five poorer parishes, so join us in the move for rural development - moving our farmers out of poverty, moving St James up the economic ladder."
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke noted that while cocoa is an important crop in the country's agriculture mix, there has to be more value-added products from the commodity.
"Gone should be the days when we allow others to extract and enjoy the value of this precious commodity. It is the reason that the ministry has chosen to separate the commercial function from the Cocoa Industry Board and allow greater private-sector involvement," he stated.
"While we have seen better days in our cocoa sector, I strongly believe that the major obstacle at this point is the absence of private investors, who will be willing to market and brand our product."