By Rochelle Williams
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – The government is investing $200 million in the national Irish potato and onion programme, to increase the hectares under production and to improve yields of these crops.
The sum of $150 million has been allocated for the Irish potato programme, while $50 million will be invested in onion production.
Agriculture and fisheries minister, Pearnel Charles Jr., said for the upcoming planting season, the intention is to target expansion of the programme in the traditional growing areas of Clarendon, St Catherine, St. Elizabeth, Trelawny and St. Thomas.
“Our goal is to see if we can get 50 percent more production in onion. We doubled our target last year and we want to get 50 per cent more this year, and for potato we are on our way to exceeding the 70 percent that we achieved last year,” he noted.
The minister was addressing farmers and other stakeholders at the launch of the 2022 National Irish Potato and Onion Programme in Guy’s Hill, St Catherine, on August 31. Seeds will be made available to the farmers by mid-October for the planting season.
“We are targeting 1,500 acres of land which is going to be a 20 percent increase over the last year’s planting season,” minister Charles Jr. informed.
He urged farmers to contact the RADA offices to have their first acre of land prepared free of cost under the ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ production programme.
Additionally, in keeping with the promised support to assist new farmers with land preparation through a special incentive programme valued at $63 million, the first tranche of $20 million has been issued by the ministry to RADA. Other support provided includes backhoes and fertiliser, among other things.
Coordinator of the National Irish Potato and Onion Programme, Locksley Waites, said the target for this year is a minimum of 24,000 tonnes.
“We will have to put more land into production. We are vigorously trying to find new acreage in the Guy’s Hill, Mavis Bank, Darliston, and Manchester belts,” he told JIS News. The national Irish potato and onion programme has created approximately 40,000 employment opportunities within the sector. The Irish potato programme, which commenced in 2008, is aimed at satisfying 100 percent of the estimated demand of 17,000 tonnes annually.
For the 2021 to 2022 period, 70 percent of national demand was achieved, eliminating the need for importation of the food staple since November 2021.