Hon. Franklin Witter, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries addressed farmers of Pedro Plains, St. Elizabeth on January 27, 2022, regarding the watermelon situation that have been having a debilitating effect on their levels of production.
From early 2020, some watermelon farmers in Junction, Pedro Plains, Southfield St. Elizabeth and New Forest Manchester and surrounding areas have been grossly affected by losses in production based on a mystery disease.
The situation wherein watermelons are hollow or rotten on the inside while appearing perfectly healthy and fully developed externally has led to many uncertainties as to the probable cause and recourse to be actioned.
A joint team of officers from R&D and RADA (PHFSU & St. Elizabeth Extension) and the Agriculture Land Management Division (ALMD) conducted a series of surveys to bring light to general farming practices. There were also sessions facilitated with farmers and input suppliers to discuss the findings.
The general survey findings suggested Pedro Plains as having the highest incidence of the fruit disorder. The survey also indicated high frequency of irrigation applied to the crop. The Farmers’ nutrition programme and excessive use of fertilizer products was also a dominant factor.
In order to find a workable and practical solution to the watermelon situation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will lead a charge with the collaborative efforts of input suppliers to include Newport Fersan Jamaica Limited, T. Geddes Grant and H& L Agro in the establishment of three (3) farmer demonstration and validation study plots in both St. Elizabeth and Manchester beginning early February 2022.
The main aim of this exercise is to practically demonstrate best practices to farmers and get a clearer understanding of the matter at hand.
A defined nutrition programme and crop calender of best practices and proper nutritional information will also be generated as output. A study plot at Bodles Research Station, laboratory testing and training and extension advisory services from RADA are among the main deliverables targeted at decisively dealing with the watermelon situation.
In giving a charge to farmers at the stakeholders’ meeting Hon Franklin Witter stated “Farmers, the onus is on you to observe, to learn and share what will be imparted overtime. We urge you not to draw any premature conclusions but to work with the stakeholders as we seek the clear solutions needed for us to move forward”.