MINISTER without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, J C Hutchinson, says the agricultural sector is expected to grow by 30 per cent for the final quarter of this year.
Speaking recently at an Irish Potato Stakeholders’ Seminar in New Market, St Elizabeth, Hutchinson said there has been significant growth in production in the sector over the last two quarters, and based on what is currently in the fields, the anticipated 30 per cent growth is achievable.
“I am looking at a minimum of 30 per cent growth for this quarter. When I said 20 per cent for the last quarter, persons said it could not happen. It was 13 per cent before and it has gone up to 28 per cent. With what we are now pushing out, I am hoping that we get over the 30 percent mark, and we can do it,” the minister emphasised.
On the Irish potato planting programme, the minister said special emphasis is being placed on getting more young farmers, including women, to plant the tuber.
He pointed out that the programme is aimed at getting Jamaica self-sufficient in the produce by the middle of next year, and the ministry is willing to assist more farmers with putting additional lands into production.
“There is a $1.1-billion programme coming out of the ministry, which has committed to directly contribute $48.3 million to the provision of crop care and productivity support. In addition, the ministry will provide technical support at a value of $400 million for the programme,” he noted.
The minister said statistics show that Jamaica consumes some 33 million pounds of table Irish potato per year, and in order to meet the local demand, the planting of some 1,200 hectares of the tuber is required.
“Since the programme’s inception, we have witnessed significant increases in the local supply of table Irish potato from 32 per cent in 2008 to 84 per cent in 2015, while imports were reduced from 10.5 million to 3.4 million,” he informed.
He pointed out that during the 2015/16 season, some 1,000 hectares of Irish potato were established by 2,788 farmers, yielding 12,500 marketable tonnes.