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Jampro boss offers advice to farmers

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 26, 2014    

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JAMPRO President Diane Edwards said Jamaican farmers need to upgrade their planting methods and crop selection in order to effectively take advantage of the billion-dollar agricultural export market.

Speaking at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange Edwards said farmers needed to research marketing strategies in order to reap better profits.

"Some farmers think they can sell what they plant and not what the market wants. Farmers need to change their mentality. We need to keep hammering home what the international market needs," she said.

Edwards was among a seven-member team promoting the April 3-6 EXPO Jamaica 2014 at which farmers will be ably represented.

Some 20,000 farmers from St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon and St Andrew will have 150,000 pounds of their produce displayed at the trade show being held at the National Arena in Kingston.

Jamaican farmers have, in the past, been criticised for the lack of uniformity and quality of some of their produce which fall below the parameters set by the gatekeepers of the major markets of North America and Europe.

Peter Thompson of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) said moves are ongoing to right those wrongs.

"We have been working with the United States Department of Agriculture and we have been working with farmers to implement the Food Safety and Modernisation Act which essentially is saying to us that if the produce does not reach a standard which is fit for export, you can be excluded from the export market," Thompson said.

He said a drive was under way to get all farmers on par with accepted international standards, as farming was a sure way to get the nation out of its present economic slump.

Jamaica presently imports 95 per cent of the onions consumed here and Thompson said a major effort was under way to decrease that high percentage through agro-parks, which have begun to yield onions at quantities that will reduce the trade deficit.

The picture was brighter for Irish potatoes, as for the last three years Jamaican farms have produced 80 per cent of what the country consumes annually.

"We are trying to produce 100 per cent of table potatoes by 2016 and, of course, we are now looking to produce the varieties that can be processed into fries and chips. We are now just testing those on a few farms and see how they stand up to our environmental conditions," he said.

Jamaican fruits are renown for their succulent taste and exotic flavour and Thompson said a tree-planting drive was also under way on larger farms to bite into that lucrative side of the export market.

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