MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Minister of Agriculture Pearnel Charles Jr is encouraging farmers to invest in the cultivation of legumes — including beans, peas and peanuts — which he believes have a viable market.
"I want our farmers to really make the most of the vast potential, particularly in terms of growing legumes in Jamaica," Charles told his audience at an agro-business symposium last Thursday.
"I know that if you grow up or live in Jamaica, Sunday dinner … in most places includes rice and peas, and so we know that our peas — our red peas — is a staple; it is something that is consumed vastly in our country," he added.
The symposium, which was spearheaded by the Damion Young-led Home Grown Produce and Agro-bizz company, included a contract signing to train farmers in the cultivation of legumes.
Charles Jr lauded the programme, noting that scores are set to benefit.
"More than 120 farmers are going to receive training, particularly in terms of peanut, red peas and gungo peas cultivation… This programme must be replicated across the country," he said.
The agriculture minister argued that given the available natural resources, Jamaican farmers should be wealthy.
"Farmers in Jamaica should be the richest, most wealthy persons because we have been given assets that other countries want. We don't only have land and good soil, we [also] have sun and water — and where we don't have that we have the technology to remedy those things," he said.
He reiterated his ministry's goal of helping farmers to utilise land.
"We have land in this country that is underutilised or not utilised. We have land that is now being utilised but not getting the greatest yield," said Charles Jr.
He added that a tractor, which was handed to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in Manchester, will be made available to farmers.
"[It] will help you in your land preparation and help to reduce the cost of it," he said.
The minister told his audience to do their part in getting more young people involved in agriculture.
"Go out in your communities and tell the youth to get involved in these programmes. These programmes are providing massive opportunities… We want more young people to get greater opportunities to get involved in the sector," he said.
Charles Jr, who late last year announced that his ministry was exploring agro-tech solutions to combat praedial larceny, warned that farm thieves will be dealt with.
"We have a message for the two-foot puss today. We said it last year and I am telling you again: We are focusing our attention on tackling the challenges... I warned them [thieves] in the middle of last year, and when we started to catch some of them … that is when you started to see things [farm theft] go down a little. Things have not been completely eradicated… We still have a big problem with praedial larceny," he said.
"I want to assure you that we are doing what we have to do to get the technology to put the teams together to support the [police], and there are submissions going to Cabinet now for us to get that together for you. Just be assured that those things are a priority," he added.