Jamaicans consume a lot of onions! Approximately 10,000,000 kilograms of onion consumed in Jamaica on an annual basis, but our production over the years has been triflingly low in comparison to our consumption.
The result is that we have had to import onions from abroad over the years to satisfy the tremendous demand for the product locally.
In response to the policy shift of government and the insistence that as a people we should become self-sufficient in food production and grow what we eat, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority has moved to assist farmers in getting into productive and profitable onion farming.
The Onion Production Programme is geared towards ensuring the sustainable development of the onion sub-sector, thereby reducing permanent dependency on imports, and achieving self-sufficiency in onion production.
The programme is managed by a Technical Working Group which comprises of representatives from various departments of the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (MOAF).
The group ensures that participating farmers are trained in the various aspects of Onion Production; areas such as Site Selection, Land Preparation, Pest and Disease Control, Crop Establishment, Plant Nutrition, Irrigation, Post-Harvest Practices, Marketing etc are some of the areas on which focus is placed.
Buyers who enter into marketing contracts with the farmers also support the programme, which is funded through a mix of grants, loans and personnel investments.
Production is carefully monitored so that any importation is guided by data so as to prevent any glut due to importation.
The Agro- Parks are playing a critical role in this effort in that they have proper infrastructure in place to include irrigation. Other traditional onion production areas throughout the Island have also been targeted. If all goes as planned it is anticipated that we would produce 40% of our consumption by 2016/2017 and in ensuing years, an increased ability to meet local demand by one hundred (100%).
Various strategies have been employed not only to increase production but productivity just the same. Some of these are provisions of reliable irrigation where this exists, proper weed management (ensure that lands are prepared properly far in advance to minimize weed growth and the use of selective Herbicides).
Precision planting, by using mechanical planters, proper nutrition, by ensuring soil analysis is carried out and encourages the utilization of high yielding seeds.
There has been great enthusiasm on the part of all concerned about the significance of this programme and the possibilities that it offers.
Farmers in the Yallahs area in particular, have increased their production by over one hundred percent (100%); moving from 10 ha. in 2013/2014 to 21.3 ha. In 2014/2015.