By Mickella Anderson
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Farmers in St Thomas are being lauded for their significant strides in onion production, which has considerably surpassed the national yield. Agriculture and fisheries minister, Pearnel Charles Jr., noted that during the fall season, more than 100 hectares of onion have been produced in the parish, with the support of the ministry’s production incentive programme.
“The parish also exceeded the national yield of 17 tonnes per hectare, with farmers achieving between 22 and 38 tonnes per hectare. So, before I announced ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ for efficiency, St Thomas was doing it,” the minister highlighted.
Charles Jr. was speaking at Wednesday’s handover of two backhoes to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). One of the units has been assigned to the parish.
Onion farmer, Lawrence Lynch, who operates four acres of farmland in Yallahs, was present at the ceremony. He told JIS News of the “key to victory” and disclosed that the farmers have taken a strategic approach to ensure the significant yield.
According to Lynch, older farmers, in the past, would plant the onions in late November or early December.
“But, due to the changing of the climate, we realised that when we plant the onion at that time, we are facing challenges with thrips and beet army worms, so to mitigate against those, we plant the onions from about the last week in September up to the second week in November,” he explained.
With this seven-week planting window and carefully incorporating the required conditions for the different developmental stages of the crop, the farmers get the maximum yield, said Lynch.
He also noted the assistance of RADA, which has provided training in land husbandry, plant protection, pest and disease management and post-harvest handling. During the season, the entity also supplied seeds, fertilisers and chemicals and assisted with marketing.
With the handover of the backhoe, RADA can now better support farmers with clearing and repairing lands in the upcoming onion-planting season, especially for new farmers acquiring additional lands.
The equipment will serve communities such as Golden Grove, Plantain Garden River Agro-Park, Duckenfield, Bath, Potosi, Beacon Hill, Johnson Mountain, Lloyds, Cedar Grove, Coco Walk, Spring Garden, Windsor Forest, Llandewey and others.