5,000 acres of cotton to be planted within four years

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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THE Jamaica Agricultural Development Foundation (JADF) is actively pursuing the revitalisation of the West Indian Sea Island Cotton (WISIC) industry, with plans to have 5,000 acres of cotton under production within the next four years.

Chief executive officer of the JADF, Vitus Evans, said the foundation is expecting that the acreage for the 2015/16 crop will increase from the current 300 acres to approximately 800 acres at the end of that year.

Evans was speaking Tuesday at the handing over of farming equipment to the JADF, at the Jamaica Exporters' Association's offices in Kingston.

The items, which include a high crop tractor, a boom sprayer and an inter-row cultivator, were procured at a cost of $11 million with funding from the Japanese Government, under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project.

Evans said the equipment, which was procured almost a year ago, has enabled the JADF to put into cultivation 300 acres of cotton, including 130 acres in St Mary and 170 acres in Old Harbour, St Catherine.

"There's also been major savings in transportation costs, as we are now able to have one set of equipment in St Mary and another in Old Harbour, thus avoiding having to transport the equipment from parish to parish as we had to do in the past," he pointed out.

Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier said the Government was in full support of the JADF's vision.

"An industry which is capable of creating 15,000 new jobs and generating almost $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings must be given all the support necessary," Kellier said.

He noted that WISIC presents an immense opportunity for Jamaica to increase its foreign exchange earnings, and thereby positively impact the economy.

He further argued that WISIC, due to its superior quality, is one of the crops which gives the region its distinct competitive edge.

"WISIC is a crop for which there exists an established export market, which is unsatisfied. I understand that there is hardly any competition from other countries. It is not a product that can be easily spoilt, it fetches a high price, and it is ideal for value addition," said the minister.

In the meantime, Evans said the JADF was in discussion with Caribbean Broilers (CB) for a possible expansion of the sector in Jamaica.

"Caribbean Broilers planted an experimental plot [of cotton] this year of about two acres and is now in the process of harvesting. They are extremely happy about the results they have gotten so far," he added.

Evans said the JADF is particularly interested in the 'mother farm concept', which Caribbean Broilers presently practises with their chicken farmers.

"If that model is adopted, we could see Caribbean Broilers directly involved in cultivating a certain acreage on its own farm to ensure critical mass, while supporting independent farmers to grow on contract," he noted.

"We believe this will be an ideal model and such involvement by CB would be in keeping with the JADF's concept of identifying new crops and new technologies in agriculture, doing the developmental work and have the private sector for the commercialisation," Evans said.

Japan's ambassador to Jamaica Yasuo Tasake welcomed the partnership and highlighted the superior quality of WISIC. He also cited the high demand in Japan for this type of cotton.

Sea Island Cotton is the world's best quality cotton based on its fibre length, silk-like quality, fineness and texture.

-- JIS




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