Based on a statement made by the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Derrick Kellier, during the media launch of the National Irish Potato and Drought Mitigation Programmes 2014-2015, (which took place at the Ministry on Tuesday, September 20, 2014) the government have developed comprehensive programmes to assist farmers to improve productivity and reduce import substitution.
The following is an excerpt of the speech made by the Hon. Derrick Kellier at the media Launch:
The National Irish Potato Expansion Programme is part of Government’s overall strategy to enhance Jamaica’s food and nutrition capacity.
The role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in this wider context, is to identify and foster development of a number of agricultural produce in which we have clear comparative advantage and which are critical to the nation’s nutrition needs. This development embraces the entire value chain.
For the 2014-2015 crop year, it is our intention to plant 1,200 hectares of Irish potato as we aim to meet the full 100% supply for the 15 million kgs that is the annual national demand for table Irish potatoes.
Another critical success factor has been the Ministry’s investment of over $15M of additional storage capacity in Christiana to allow for storage of the crop when it comes in bulk and the gradual release thereafter.
In order to achieve this we will undertake the following:
- Provide crop care support in the form of chemicals for 40% of the requirement per hectare to a maximum of two (2) hectare per farmer;
- Establish four( 4) Farmer Field School (FFS)
- Establish four (4) demonstration plots;
- Organize two (2) farm tours;
- Strengthen marketing contracts between farmers and buyers;
- Purchase and distribute 250 soil and water quality PH test kits to extension personnel and trained community leaders in an effort to assist participating farmers with soil testing;
- Expand the seed production programme to 44.4 hectares.
This year, we will also continue to deliberately engage youth up to 35 years old and women in the programme and will provide grant assistance to over 180 participants.
As a new feature of the programme, this year we are engaging the credit unions and other financial institutions to come on board to provide financing on a crop lien basis. What this means is that the farmers will have access to credit from these institutions and will not be required to provide the usual collateral. The marketing contracts between the farmers and the traders to remit to the financial institutions loan payments, and the Ministry’s intensive extension programme all serve to mitigate the risk to the financial institutions.
Indeed the Ministry is now encouraging the crop lien mechanism supported by firm marketing contracts as a mainstream strategy for financing agricultural production.
It is the model that is to be used in the agro-parks to resolve the challenges associated with financing production.
In summary, our planned outputs for this year are:
- The planting of 1,200 hectares of Irish potato
- Production of 15 million kg of Irish potato ;
- Continuous training of 1,500 farmers
- Increased public/private sector/NGOs/partnership;
- Continued work on varieties to be used as fries.
DROUGHT MITIGATION MEASURES
As it relates to the Drought Mitigation Measures please see below the plans in place to be implemented by the Ministry.
You will recall that early intervention strategies were implemented to assist farmers affected by the drought conditions, especially in the parishes of St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, and the north-eastern parishes of Portland and St Mary.
Some $33M was distributed to farmers in the form of input supplies, as our immediate response in the 2nd quarter.
In an effort to ensure the full recovery of the sector and to maintain the growth momentum, Cabinet has approved another $95M to provide assistance to the sector. $50M will be expended immediately and another $45M in the 1st quarter of the next calendar year.
Of the J$50M mentioned above, J$30M will be spent in Phase 1 on the resuscitation of farmsthatsuffered losses resulting from the drought in the eastern parishes of St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, St. Ann, Clarendon and St. Catherine and the western parishes of Manchester, St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland, St. James and Trelawny.
The major crops targeted are: corn, red peas, pak choi, carrot, cucumber, string bean, cabbage, tomato, lettuce, watermelon, cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet pepper and hot pepper.
The support contemplated will be provision of planting material, fertilizer and support with land preparation. This project will be administered by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and some 5,000 farmers have already been identified.
Additionally, RADA will be providing support to some 38 members of the Jamaica Greenhouse Growers Association to assist with the excavation of reservoirs and the installation of pond liners to store water that will be harvested from the roof of their greenhouse. This support goes beyond recovery of these farmers, but will put them in a position to withstand any future droughts.
In summary, each of these beneficiaries would have had sufficient storage for continuous production in a 6,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space for up to four months.
The net impact of this 1st phase intervention in which $50M is being spent, will be the following:
- An additional 234,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse capacity with the ability to sustainably produce vegetables during future drought periods of up to 4 months duration.
- Potential for the production of an additional 731,250 lbs. of tomatoes and 292,500 lbs. of coloured sweet peppers on a year-round basis. Farmers can also produce lettuce on an alternative basis.
- 39 greenhouse farmers with enhanced capacity for the sustainable and reliable supply of greenhouse-grown vegetables to high value markets.
- And most important, reduction in the importation of agricultural produce in excess of one Million (1,000,000) lbs. on an ongoing basis resulting in substantial annual savings of foreign exchange from import substitution.