The Government is strengthening several key agricultural sectors in the parish of St Mary, according to Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Franklin Witter.
He said that shortly, a cluster will be developed for 15 farmers around the Cobra Ranch Dairy Goat Farm in the parish, where they will be able to sell their milk to the farm for processing.
Additionally, the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) will be providing training for goat farmers for the manufacture of new value chain products such as yoghurt, cheese, and flavoured milk.
“I urge you to continue to expand your production as we work towards building a resilient and robust agricultural sector,” Witter said.
The State Minister, who was delivering the keynote address at the St Mary Agricultural Show on Monday at the Gray’s Inn Sports Complex in Annotto Bay, added that last year, the JDDB established more than 50 acres of “improved pastures” and fodder banks in the parish, at a cost of $2.5 million.
Highlighting that there is a “high demand” for bananas, both locally and overseas, Witter underscored that there is a need for a “significant increase in production” to meet the demand. He said last year, the ministry provided $50 million to reposition the industry after it was affected by tropical storms, Grace and Ida.
The ministry is also committed to assisting farmers to boost the production of plantains, he said, and has allocated another $10 million towards the project in the 2022/2023 period. This will be adding to the $10 million that was injected into the industry last year for the establishment of 10 acres of plantain for 10 farmers in the parishes of St Mary, Portland, and St Thomas. This resulted in a 13.6 per cent increase in production.
In urging the farmers to continue their production, Witter said they should also continue the “diversification of the crops that you cultivate as together, we work towards expanding, modernising and transforming the agricultural sector, in order to improve the economy”.
The Minister of State also lauded farmers for “heeding” the ministry’s call to concentrate on onion, pineapple, potatoes, vegetables, peppers, and papaya. He said that based on what he saw at the show, it is “evident that agriculture is alive and well” and the more than 14,000 registered farmers in St Mary are delivering.