Hotel boss tells farmers to meet demands
GENERAL manager of Sandals Montego Bay, Horace Peterkin, has challenged local farmers to fill area hotels’ demand for fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We buy millions of dollars worth of agricultural products per year. And since this project started in 1997, the purchases from the farmers involved is less than J$10 million dollars,” he said.
Peterkin was speaking at a graduation ceremony for farmers who had completed an eight-month management course designed to improve the quality and output of their produce.
He charged that farmers needed to recognise and overcome the various challenges that face them. These challenges, he said, include the lack of irrigation – even in areas where there is abundant water.
“Only one per cent of the farmland in Jamaica is irrigated (and) in periods of drought, production suffers,” the hotel head said. “In some areas such as Mafoota, abundant supplies of water exist in close proximity to farming lands but there is a lack of irrigation to get it to where it is needed most.”
Peterkin also cited the need for improved technology as a challenge faced by farmers.
“I see farmers doing some back-breaking work (and others who have) to hire help at increasingly higher costs to till their soil,” he said. He added: “The employment of tractors and other technology to plough lands and even reap would go a far way in improving farming in Jamaica.”
In the meantime the farmers who participated in the programme said they learned new skills and techniques and were grateful to be beneficiaries of the Small Farmer’s Improvement Project.
“We have learnt to approach this whole business of farming as a business venture,” said farmer Milton Murdock, who spoke at the graduation ceremony on behalf of his colleagues.
And, he cited instances of size consistency and timely reaping as techniques taught to them in order to satisfy the hotel circuit.
The course was conducted under the Sandals Resorts/Rural Agricultural Development Authority and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Small Farmers Project.
The 21 participating farmers from Santoy in Hanover and Mafoota in St James were trained in cooperative management, basic accounting, record keeping, group dynamics and strategic marketing.
The Sandals/RADA programme, which started in 1997, also involves farmers from Mason River in Clarendon, Gilliards in St Elizabeth and a group from West Central St Mary, who produce exotic vegetables on a crop lien basis in conjunction with their supplier, Sandals Resorts International.
Under the programme, Sandals International supplies the seeds and the farmers make the necessary payment on the sale of the produce.
The vegetables they grow include red cabbage, sweet corn, zucchini, yellow cooked neck squash, red and yellow sweet pepper, snow peas and salad or table tomato.