Farmers to get marketing information centre

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 26, 2015

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JAMAICA Agricultural Society (JAS) President Senator Norman Grant says that the society has acquired the services of a team of software engineers from the Mona School of Business and Management to assist in developing a marketing information centre for farmers.


He said that the centre will include a 20-seat call centre to administer the software platform, and will provide marketing information, as well as facilities for buying and selling between commodity traders and farmers.


"Farmers will be able to access the system by phone, voice or text, or by another communications device connected to the internet, that they wish to use," Senator Grant told last Thursday's opening session of the society's inaugural production and food security summit at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.


He said that the summit, which attracted a number of representatives from the farming sector, including the Rural Agricultural Development, the 4-H Clubs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and sector bodies, as well as the United States and the European Union, would seek to develop strategies to increase domestic agriculture production by an average of 10 per cent per annum over the next five years.


Grant said that the emerging biodiversity sector would play a significant role in achieving this target, noting that Jamaica has one of the richest biodiversity in the world, with over 3,000 plant species many of which, he said, were considered to be highly nutritious as well as having valuable, inherent medicinal properties.


He said that the country needed to look to emerging opportunities, for example in the development of hemp and bamboo and its derivatives.


"We cannot forget the development of the logistics hub, and what it means for our farmers; every person who needs food in that sector can be supplied by our own farms. Let us consider how we can develop strategies to be ready for these emerging opportunities," Senator Grant said.


Minister of state for agriculture and Fisheries, Luther Buchanan, who was the main speaker at the opening of the one-day summit, said that the ministry wants to significantly increase the production of onions as part of efforts to reduce the country's import bill.


He said data has shown that the country produces 12 tonnes of onion per hectare, which is way below the global average of 17 tonnes per hectare.


"Currently, we import, 9, 000 tonnes of onion annually, costing US$3.6 million. We are now working to reverse this trend. As part of our onion development plan, we are aiming to reduce importation by 50 per cent by 2017," Buchanan said.


He pointed out that there are some 300 farmers involved in onion production, with 72 hectares of land established, including 40 hectares in the agro-parks. As part of the development programme, the ministry intends to have 450 farmers involved in onion production in 2015/2016 and expects to have that number increased to 600 farmers by 2016/2017.


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