By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica – The government of Jamaica announced plans for public-private partnerships while demonstrating its commitment to agriculture development with substantial investment, reported by JIS.
Minister of agriculture and fisheries, Floyd Green disclosed that the Coconut Industry Board (CIB), with responsibility for promoting the interest and efficiency of the coconut industry, encouraging the production of coconuts, regulating the purchase, sale and export of coconuts as well as the importation of coconut products and substitutes; together with the government of Jamaica, is seeking to collaborate with private growers to boost the supply of coconuts for the industry.
Minister Green in his contribution to the 2021/22 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 12, said: “Under the partnership, we are looking to produce 400,000 seedlings per year, which would be a 400 percent increase, and to plant over 3,000 acres of coconut,” the minister added. “ The tremendous demand for coconuts and its by-products, such as coconut water and coconut oil is a clear opportunity for the country… Grace Foods has indicated “that they could utilise 24,000 coconuts daily to satisfy their coconut water needs”.
“Over the last year, we have expanded our nurseries at Barton Isles and Plantation Garden, we’ve distributed over 75,000 seedlings and planted over 100,000 seed nuts, but we need to accelerate this pace,” minister Green said, hence the need for the public-private partnership.
Soil health committee established
The government has established a Soil Health Committee at the ministry of agriculture and fisheries, to increase Jamaica’s food security. The Committee comprises technical officers from the Agricultural Land Management Division (ALMD), Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and other stakeholders.
“The committee will pay keen attention to improving health, yield and profitability of soils, and promoting further education and adoption of healthy soil practices,” the minister explained. “Soil health is paramount. Soil is an essential resource and a vital part of our natural environment. In fact, 95 percent of the food that we eat is produced in the soil. Healthy soils are the basis of the food production system. However, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 33 percent of global soils are degraded,” minister Green said.
The public infrastructure management committee has approved the Soil Fertility Mapping Project for Sustainable Agriculture in Jamaica, a joint project between the ministry of agriculture and the Moroccan National Institute for Agricultural Research.
The project is expected to take four years and cost US$1.3 million:
Design and develop an Information system and soil databases for decision-makers;
Develop fertiliser recommendations for crops and establish fertiliser programmes;
Put in place a geo-referenced soil fertility information system for the country; and
Enhance the human and technical capacity of farmers, extension officers and researchers in soil information, and fertility monitoring and management.
$650 million for rehabilitation of farm roads programme
Minister Green, announced that government will invest $650 million to rehabilitate farm roads across the island this financial year, to target a minimum of one farm road per farming constituency selected after consultation with the members of parliament.
“The improvements will benefit more than 2,000 farmers and farm families across rural communities through increased access to markets and ease of transportation of goods and services. Additional projects will be accepted from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) master list, which consists of recommendation from farm groups, extension officers and various other stakeholders
“Each year we will attempt to undertake several marquee farm road projects in communities for the greatest impact. They will be selected based on priority for full completion,” minister Green stated, “In the last financial year the government spent $375 million on the programme, resulting in the rehabilitation of 56 roads, while ten others are in completion stages.”
US$1.05 million agri-business cold chain project
The government is embarking on a US$1.05 million (approximately $157 million) Agri-Business Cold Chain project for Jamaica (ABC Jamaica). This initiative will take place over 18 months through grant funding of US$945,000 from the government of Morocco, minister Green, announcement during his 2021/22 sectoral debate presentation in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 12.
“The project will address the need for adequate cold storage facilities to stem the up to 30 percent post-harvest loss of perishable fruits and vegetables,” minister Green noted. “The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic again brought this into sharp focus and underscored the need to develop reliable and efficient cold chains that will not only reduce post-harvest crop losses but also prevent forced sales at low prices.”
Aspects of the project include the establishment of mobile pre-cooling and packing facilities in highly productive farming areas:
Walk-in cold rooms that provide unbroken, off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods close to farming clusters;
Small refrigerated trucks for transportation of produce to markets.
A network of temperature data loggers in both cold rooms and trucks, that farmers can monitor remotely using their cellular phones.
“The government of Morocco has also offered assistance with fertilisers, soil research and analysis, said minister Green.
Caribbean News Global