Regional

Food festivals boost agriculture

Alicia Sutherland

Monday, May 05, 2014    

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CHRISTIANA, Manchester — Chief technical director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Dermon Spence has hailed the role of food festivals in encouraging growth in the agricultural sector.

He was among those at the staging of a potato festival organised in north-east Manchester by the Rotary Club of Christiana on Easter Monday.

"Festivals like these provide an excellent opportunity for us to highlight and market our Jamaican products and produce and showcase them to the rest of the community," Spence said.

Spence said that as the agriculture ministry continues to urge Jamaicans to "grow what we eat and eat what we grow" steps are being taken to identify and target strategically selected crops to achieve the country's import- substitution goals.

"Irish potato has pride of place as one of those very important crops... We are not only achieving the targets we set for self-sufficiency but are producing table Irish potato of excellent quality, quality, that has elicited high praise from our consumers," said Spence.

He said that, shortly, sweet potato will also be looked at for import substitution.

Spence lauded the 55-year-old Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative Association for allowing the crop to be grown in an organised way.

"...What this says to us is that strong and well-organised farmers' associations are an integral part of successful production. In fact, collaboration among the various stakeholders in the industry, opportunities for information sharing and communication are key to the success of the process," he said.

Spence advised farmers to take into consideration factors such as packaging, pricing and timing when marketing their crops.

Businessman and Christiana Rotary Club member Ivan Green urged the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to consider red peas for import substitution.

"We can produce more red peas in this area than anywhere else in Jamaica or anywhere else in the Caribbean. We can produce at least three crops of red peas for the year, so we shouldn't have to import red peas...," he said.

President of the Rotary Club of Christiana Paul Patmore said that attendance at the Potato Festival had improved over last year.

He told Observer Central that North East Manchester was among the "top producers" in both Irish and sweet potato crops and farmers look forward to the event.

Organisations with products made from potato at the festival included the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) parish office in Manchester, Christiana High School, and the Christiana Development Association Committee.

Patmore said that the Rotary Club of Christiana has long-term plans for the Potato Festival and Fun Day, which is in its second year.

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