It is the objective of all major countries in the world to have the ability to feed their population, and the objective of Agriculture Minister The Hon. Derrick Kellier to have Jamaica self sufficient in food production is not only laudable but downright sensible.
It is against this background that RADA has embarked on the ambitious programme of encouraging Jamaican farmers to engage in the rewarding and profitable business of growing the gastronomically delightful Jamaican Irish Potato.
As one of the staple foods within their diet, the Jamaican population consume approximately fifteen (15) million kilograms (15 m kg.) of Irish potato on an annual basis. Under the National Irish Potato Expansion Programme, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheriesthrough the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the level of self-sufficiency in fresh irish potato has moved steadily from 32 % in 2008 to approximately 87 % in 2013.
This is the highest level of import substitution since the programme started. This level is expected to be a little during the 2014-2014 calendar year because of the ravages of the drought on productivity in some areas.
Irish Potato Programme 2013-2014
The 2013- 2014 programme provided crop care support to farmers by the provision of pesticides. This represents 50% of the pesticide demand for the crop of up to five (5) acres per farmer in the designated production zones - Guys Hill, Christiana, High Gate and parts of Trelawny and St. Ann.
The general programme targeted 1,250 hectaresfor the fall and spring crops. Of this amount, just under a 1,000 ha were achieved due to various factor including the drought. A total of 2,469 farmers were involved in the programme.
The Programme also provided 100% support for production of 40 hectares under the Youth and Women component valued at J$8.54M. This was the Ministry’s commitment to engage young farmers in the age range 18-35 category.
RADA’s Supporting Role
Following the success of the 2013- 2014 programme, RADA will continue to provide a supporting role to 2014-2015 programme. In this light, RADA will further build on the capacity of all the participating farmers. Training will be done through the organization and establishment of Farmer Field Schools and Demonstration Plots, conducting farmer training sessions and sensitization workshops. RADA’s extension officers will also play an important role in monitoring the production areas. In addition, farmers will receive text messages with technical content.
1200 hectares of irish potato will be targeted for planting under the 2014-2015 programme. Additional support that will provided to farmers includes:
- Forty percent (40%) of the crop care inputs (insecticide and fungicide) for up to 4 hectares (10 acres)
- Training, monitoring and logistic support
- Women and youth component:
- To establish and conduct demonstration plots
- To conduct Farmer Field School (FFS)
Farmers under the programme will have to provide equity as follows:
- Purchase of planting material (seeds) 2,000 bags (Sponsors)
- Purchase of fertilizer (50% of requirement per hectare) - (Sponsors)
- All land preparation activities;
- Labour to care for the crop from planting to post harvest;
- Financing of agricultural inputs.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in consultation with several Financial Institutions (Credit Unions, Peoples Co-operative Bank and others) will provide funding to irish potato farmers under a Crop Lien Programme. Women and Youth will also be encouraged to access loans from this programme for their involvement.
The way forward
- Production of Irish potato seeds (as planting material)
- Produce potatoes that are suitable for making fries.
Get Involved: Are you interested in cattle, sheep or goat production? You can find out more by contacting your nearest RADA office here.