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Research and development among priorities of new agriculture minister in Jamaica

By Twila Wheelan

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Minister of agriculture and fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr., says that research and development is among his strategic priorities to ensure a resilient and sustainable sector.

“One of my focal points, priority areas will be to enhance the research and development capacity within agriculture and fisheries. Looking at strategies to boost production and productivity, our natural assets and putting that within the context of the limited space that we have in terms of our land, enhancing research will allow for us to improve productivity, reduce waste and optimise how we operate,” he said. Speaking at a JIS Think Tank on Thursday, January 27, cited work already being conducted under the Redevelopment of Research Centres Project, which is aimed at rehabilitating agricultural research facilities across the island.

The first phase of the initiative, valued at $800 million, began in 2018 and will run until 2023. As of December 2021, a sum of $766.4 million was spent under the project to rehabilitate the St Catherine-based Bodles Research Centre to make it a centre of excellence.

“I had the opportunity to meet with our research and development division and to be briefed on this very important [initiative]. I’m very happy to see that we have a project that really moves our vision and mission forward…which is truly to take a very direct and deliberate approach to building the capacity of research and development so that Bodles and other research centres will become number one in our region,” minister Charles Jr., said.

Project manager, Paulette Lysons-Dodd, who also addressed the Think Tank, outlined some of the work done at Bodles, to date.

“We have improved our information technology services by constructing and equipping a server room. We have completed renovations on the animal nutrition laboratory as well as improved the information and communications technology (ICT) structured networking in that facility. We have also designed four two-bedroom houses for dairy farmhands and the design is ready for us to go to market for construction,” she said.

Designs for a new piggery have been sent to the municipal authority for approval. In addition, a brand-new milking system has been installed, and improvements made to the Dairy Parlour, which was commissioned into service in September.

“Work has also begun to upgrade the domestic water pipeline and supply. This is 60 per cent complete and we should be finished at the end of March. We are upgrading the irrigation system, which is 65 per cent completed and we hope to finish that by the end of March. Also slated for completion at the end of March is the renovation of our greenhouses,” Paulette Lysons-Dodd told JIS News.

Rehabilitation of the Bodles Research Centre is expected to improve service delivery and directly impact the level of support given to farmers for improved production and productivity.

The improvements will also increase the use of technologies by farmers to boost on-farm efficiencies and facilitate growth in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture and fisheries contribute 7.8 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) accounting for 15.9 percent of employment, and directly impacting the livelihood of more than 230,000 registered farmers.



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