Jamaica reports 10.5 percent growth in domestic crop production, January – March 2022

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Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr., addresses the Caribbean Food and Safety Summit on May 10, at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St. Andrew [ Photo: Dave Reid]

By Garfield L. Angus

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – The ministry of agriculture and fisheries is reporting major growth in domestic food production for the first quarter of the year. Portfolio minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, said preliminary estimates for January to March, indicate an increase of 10.5 percent over the corresponding period in 2021.

“This is encouraging and reflects a continuation of the growth trend over the past four years. What is even more inspiring is that this was accomplished during a significantly challenging period as Jamaica, like many others, battled the [coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic”, minister Charles Jr. said, at the opening of the two-day Caribbean Food and Safety Summit at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St. Andrew on Tuesday, May 10.

The minister said that the growth is encouraging as the government continues to employ measures to bolster the sector. The objective, he noted, is to build a resilient sector that can ensure the country’s food security, with a focus on research and development of alternatives for animal feed, fertiliser, and food options.

Minister Charles Jr. said the government is leveraging bilateral relations to assist with access to agricultural-related inputs, citing partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco to source key ingredients for fertilizer manufacture, such as potash, phosphates, and nitrogen.

He noted that the role of the Research and Development Division is being intensified to strengthen local seed supply “and going beyond genetic preservation to multiplication, through a partnership with the private sector”.

In addition, the capacity of the St Catherine-based Bodles Research Station is being bolstered to include the establishment of fodder banks using high-protein local material.

“This will also serve as a model for replication across the country to enhance the supply of feed material to our farmers at cost,” minister Charles Jr. indicated.

He said that the potential of the livestock sector in also being increased through, among other things, the transitioning of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board to the National Livestock Board and the improvement of the Small Ruminant Development Programme to increase supply of goat and sheep.

Minister Charles Jr., said that the task of strengthening food security is a “massive one” and includes additional areas of focus, such as the introduction and utilisation of smart farming technology to boost productivity; development of climate-resilient crops, as well as reduction of invasive species that threaten crop growth; and providing agricultural education across primary, secondary and tertiary schools to not only fuel a greater appreciation for the field but also secure the next generation of leaders and employees within the space.

“The goal of food security is to ensure that all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food. To enable this, the work must be done to create the right environment within which that can happen.

“When we approach food security, it must be done from a space of calm and clarity, having a keen understanding of the current challenges, accessible resources, and the deliberate and strategic actions to be taken,” minister Charles Jr., said.

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