St Elizabeth still the bread basket parish
Produces 22 per cent of nation's food
St Elizabeth continues to maintain its reputation as the bread basket parish of Jamaica and currently produces 22 per cent of the national domestic food needs, through fruits and vegetables, poultry, beef and tubers.
Deputy Parish Manager of the St Elizabeth branch of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) Marvin Lawrence said production by the farmers in even more significant, based on the fact that they are affected annually by occurrences, such as drought, floods and bush fires.
He noted that over the past two years, the farmers have taken significant steps to mitigate the effects of drought, flooding and bush fires.
However, Lawrence said the cost of overseas agricultural inputs has become a major issue for the farmers.
"While crop production has remained stable, the foreign exchange situation has been affecting the farmers. A lot of the inputs has to be imported and the rate of foreign exchange has been unstable, resulting in some farmers scaling down on their production. Despite that however, the parish has been able, through the hard work of the farmers, to contribute 22 per cent of the national domestic food requirements," he said.
Lawrence said while the parish's farming strength remains in the production of fresh fruits and vegetables, it has been gradually making a name for itself in areas such as yam, sweet potato, cassava and dasheen production.
"St Elizabeth has also made significant strides in the areas of beef, poultry, egg and even goat meat production. We have hundreds of farmers involved in these areas ranging from small to large farmers," he noted.
Meanwhile, Lawrence said he is optimistic that the on-going issue of praedial larceny, which has been affecting the livestock sector, will be addressed in a decisive way.
"We have been doing very well in the area of livestock farming. However, the issue of praedial larceny is a major deterrent to the farmers. I am of the view that once this scourge is addressed in a decisive way, more farmers will come on board and those who are already involved will make additional investments. The Government has put measures in place to address the matter and I am confident that soon, farmers will be given peace of mind while they invest in the sector," he said.