Farmers shine on RADA Open Day

Monday, April 08, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Marco Hannan, a farmer from the north-east Manchester community of Devon was a happy man when the, Jamaica Observer Central met him at a Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) Open Day recently.

Hannan, who had cabbage on sale, was particularly pleased that he took a “gamble” in December to plant the crop when it was going for $20 per pound. He explained that he was now able to reap and sell the product at $100 per pound.

Cabbage apart, Hannan plants cucumbers, Irish potatoes, sweet peppers, string beans and corn. He was with other farmers who took the opportunity of the open day to display their goods, with the expectation of good sales.

Hannan hailed the support he gets from RADA as “good work”.

Jermaine Alexander, a farmer from Newport in southern Manchester, said that among the ways he benefits from RADA is through the assistance he receives in accessing markets for the organic sweet potatoes he grows.

Alexander further informed that he started planting the crop six years ago because he saw that there was a demand for produce grown without pesticides, and he wanted to be different.

He said that he joined the professional association for organic farmers as a way to keep abreast of how to move his business forward successfully.

The National Land Agency (NLA) was a prominent exhibitor at the open day, encouraging farmers to be aware and take advantage of benefits that may be available to them.

Wayne Mitchell, senior lands officer at the agency's branch in Manchester told the Jamaica Observer Central that members of his team were using the opportunity to address specific queries such as access to state-owned land.He said that farmers can lease or purchase such lands. Among the benefits is that farmers can pay for land over a period of years without contending with interest rates. Mitchell said that there are also instances in which properties being used for farming can benefit from reduction in taxes. Mitchell added that with LAMP (Land Administration and Management Programme) now merged with the NLA, farmers can now more easily acquire registered titles.

Other organisations at the event included the Property Tax Unit of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, agricultural institutions, and financial bodies.

Gary Dixon, parish agricultural manager for RADA in Manchester, said that the annual open day seeks to showcase the work of his organisation but is also a way to bring partners and stakeholders on board in one setting.

He noted that among the popular misconceptions is that the work of RADA is to provide resources.

“The annual open day provided the opportunity to explain that RADA was the main extension service for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries — providing farmers with technical assistance and guidance,” Dixon said.

Audley Shaw, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, and Member of Parliament for Manchester North Eastern, used the occasion to hail Manchester's farmers for their productivity.

“I am so pleased to hear that Manchester is the highest in productivity and the highest in production in agriculture in Jamaica. I am very proud of that,” he told the gathering at Brooks Park Sports and Recreational Complex in Mandeville.

Shaw cautioned that despite the strides, there is still room for further growth.

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