THE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is reporting earnings of some $247 million from 207 acres of ginger and $44 million from 123 acres of turmeric, totalling $291 million during the last year.
The Turmeric and Ginger project, which was launched by the ministry in February 2012, has recorded the impressive results, despite the effects of drought and Hurricane Sandy in October last year.
Some 384 farmers have been assisted to cultivate 422 acres of turmeric and ginger under the project.
In an interview with JIS News, general manager of the ministry's Export Division, Sylburn Thomas, says the ministry is committed to accelerating the growth of the ginger and turmeric industries, and in this regard will be significantly expanding the project to engage more farmers to produce at least 60 per cent of current demand this year and 100 per cent by 2014.
The ministry, he says, has strategically introduced ginger and turmeric cultivation in its agro parks, to ensure achievement of this objective. According to Thomas, in order to unlock the economic potential of these industries, the Ministry is continuing its research programme in ginger and turmeric agronomy and pest and disease management.
The project has been implemented islandwide, but ginger is mostly concentrated in the parishes of Clarendon, St Thomas, Trelawny, Portland, and St James, while the turmeric project is mostly located in the parishes of Clarendon, Westmoreland, St Thomas, Trelawny, St Catherine and St Mary.
Four greenhouses have also been set up at the Ministry's research stations in Orange River, St Mary; Bodles, St Catherine; and Montpelier, St James, to focus on hydroponic technology and overall economic optimisation of this production system.
"There is growing global demand for both ginger and turmeric. Current demand exists for 21,000 metric tonnes of Jamaican ginger valued at $3 billion and 676 metric tonnes of Jamaican turmeric, valued at $190 million. The products are being exported in quantities sufficient to retain short-term market interests, while the ministry addresses the structural supply hurdle through its development programmes," Thomas points out. The ministry currently contracts farmers to produce ginger and turmeric at guaranteed prices.
The cultivation of ginger and turmeric is relatively labour intensive, and has the potential to contribute to rural economic diversification and employment.
Since February 2012, the project has employed a monthly average of 1,024 unskilled persons. An additional 60 persons have been contracted to work in processing operations from January to April 2013 and 14 agricultural graduates have also been employed on the project to provide dedicated extension service to ginger and turmeric farmers. Meanwhile, Thomas informs that the ministry's spice industry development initiatives, which are implemented through its Export Division, will also be targeting the cultivation of nutmeg, pimento, cardamom and cinnamon.
Nutmeg and pimento seedlings are currently available from the Ministry and tissue culture techniques are being considered to produce planting material to introduce commercial cardamom cultivation in Jamaica.
At present the ministry provides technical and business support to encourage investments in essential oils and oleoresin extraction, particularly from pimento, pimento leaf, ginger, nutmeg, mace and lemongrass.