$100m to be spent on certification of agro parksThursday, April 23, 2015
AGRICULTURE, Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier says that approximately $100 million is to be spent on a certification programme for agro parks during the 2015/16 fiscal year.
According to Kellier, the programme will entail critical assessment, training of trainers and farmers, and installation of infrastructure, such as sanitation and storage facilities.
The minister was making his contribution to the 2015/16 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
He said that $52 million was already spent to improve laboratories and other critical infrastructure "to put us in a position to obtain international accreditation".
Kellier also announced that $16 million is earmarked for expenditure this year on the National Animal Identification and Traceability System (NAITS) which, he informed, will target the tagging of 11,000 head of cattle.
This, he said, is consistent with the ministry's ongoing undertaking to overhaul and expand Jamaica's food safety and traceability infrastructure, to safeguard public health and facilitate the export trade.
Kellier told the House that since last year the ministry has been rolling out an export market platform, in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), through which farmers and exporters are identified and trained, and taken into the marketplace for direct contact with buyers.
"Already, we have gone into the United Kingdom and South Florida, and we have every intention to sustain this approach, working with Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and the Diaspora," he said.
Complementing this, Kellier said, will be the provision of "strong marketing support to sector stakeholders".
Meanwhile, the minister told the House that extension officers of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) will be at the forefront of the agency's planned restructuring, slated to get underway this year.
This, he said, is to better enable the authority to reach more farmers, including the over 22,000 small farmers, in a more efficient way.
"In this financial year, also, we are rolling out a National Plant Wise Programme, under which RADA extension officers will be trained and equipped with diagnostic kits to undertake diagnosis and rapid assessment of disease and pest conditions in the field, and make prescriptions on the spot. Our extension officers will now become plant doctors, as well," said Kellier.
He added that the ministry would continue to strengthen its research and development capacity to support production, particularly of clean planting material for critical industries.
"Our research and development efforts will also continue to be focused on plant protection, and disease management and surveillance. A key strategy in our research and development programme will be collaboration with our tertiary institutions and research centres, both locally and overseas," he said.
Kellier added that improved genetic material and enhanced multiplication techniques for herd expansion are also being provided for livestock, pointing out that "at the same time, working with the Dairy Board and the breed societies, we will continue our work of improving and preserving our indigenous breeds".