Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries will be expanding the Irish potato programme to new planting areas for the 2016/17 crop year. Darliston in Westmoreland and Hounslow in St Elizabeth, which were not adversely affected by the recent dry spell, are among new planting areas being considered for the expansion, which is part of Government’s strategy towards 100 per cent self-sufficiency in Irish potato production. JC Hutchinson, minister without portfolio at the ministry, said that in addition to intensive participatory training of farmers, there will be several strategies towards climate change resilience for the Irish potato sub-sector. Through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, 2,000 farmers will be trained, field visits conducted and production areas monitored. The training will include spray calibration, new planting techniques and appropriate use of fertiliser to coincide with the 2016-2017 crop, which is aimed at planting 1,200 hectares of Irish potato, with an expected yield of 15 million Irish potatoes.
Among the objectives for the $1.1-billion programme, which will include a direct cash injection of $48.3 million from the ministry, in addition to technical support valued at over $700 million for the 2016-2017 crop year, is a 10 per cent increase in productivity. The programme also aims to provide crop care and productivity support in the form of agro-chemicals for 40 per cent of the targeted hectares, to a maximum of two hectares per farmer, and to establish eight validation plots by the Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) on which participatory training will take place.
Hutchinson assured the farmers that they would have a ready market for all the Irish potato that they would produce through marketing agreements/contracts between the farmers and buyers. This arrangement would be made through the Potato and Onion Producers’ Association.