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Farmers Urged To Play Their Part In Growing Jamaica’s Economy
KINGSTON (JIS) -- Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C Hutchinson, has called on farmers to play their part in growing Jamaica’s economy. Speaking at Friday’s (March 10) Irish potato production post-harvest seminar and study tour in Hounslow, St. Elizabeth, he emphasized that if farming does not grow, neither could the economy. To that end, he urged persons to identify government lands which could be for agriculture. “Every square of land must be in production to make sure that we are producing. It is unfortunate that some land owners have land that is not being used; they need to be told to put it into production or lease it to someone who will put it into production” the Minister stated. He added that: “we are on a drive to identify government lands; we are looking for land to put people to farm. There are many young people and females interested in going into agriculture. We are pushing them to come on board and we will find land for you.”
Mr. Hutchinson disclosed that 4,000 acres of land has identified on two properties in Manchester which the Government was seeking to secure and make available to farmers.
He disclosed that 60 persons have visited the properties and they would soon be farming on them, while extending an invitation for others to join them.
“If you see land in my constituency that is not being used, let me know so we can get people on it,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hutchinson said St Elizabeth was now experiencing tremendous success in Irish potato production.
He referenced Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) reports showing an overall increase in the parish from 15.8 hectares last year to 60 hectares this year.
“Irish potato production is moving in the right direction. Demand for production of Irish potato has been growing tremendously; people want to go into it and cannot find the seeds. So come next season we have to ensure that seeds are available for the many more farmers who are seeing the results and want to follow suit,” he said.
Jamaica consumes 33 million pounds of table potatoes every year and the Ministry plans to plant 1,200 hectares this season so that Jamaica can become self-sufficient in the crop.
The Ministry will, this year, spend some $1.1 billion to assist in the Irish potato programme.
To date it has spent $71.3 million to help farmers to boost production. They have also helped with technical support to the tune of $400 million.
Mr. Hutchinson said farmers who want to go into the Irish potato programme would be provided with the seeds and chemicals free of cost.
“We are also looking to say to our fertiliser companies, we want you to provide the fertiliser to the farmers up front. By so doing, the only thing the farmer will have to do is put in sweat equity,” he added.
Mr. Hutchinson advised that when the crops are reaped, the Potato and Onion Producers Association (POPA) would buy produce from farmers, thereby making it profitable for them.