FARMERS of St Ann and St Mary paraded their agricultural crops for members of the political directorate recently, following a tour of properties in St Ann and St Mary.
The tour was led by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr, and included minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Robert Montague, state minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Franklin Witter, as well as Members of Parliament James Robertson and Lisa Hanna.
Agronomist at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Locksley Waites acted as the tour's technical leader.
The first stop was at farmer Lawrence Patterson's properties in Hinds Town, St Ann, where Irish potatoes, and sweet pepper are cultivated on over 100 hectacres.
The second was at farms in St Mary that operate under the agricultural production zone, which was officially opened the same day by Charles Jr. The zone comprises a total of 344 hectares in New Pen, near the larger communities of Labrynth and Gayle in the parish.
Over 60 other farmers also grow crops in the New Pen area, with a further 150 hectares managed by over 60 farmers.
Charles said that the establishment of the agro-production zone will boost the general output of farmers, improving their processes and productivity and expanding their horizons.
“The ministry is focused on giving our support to make sure that our farmers are successful. We will do all that we can to make sure that this production zone is productive,” he said during the official opening.
The main crops grown on the St Mary farms include Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, pepper, cabbage, and tomatoes. The zone is managed by the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC).
In addition to the leasing of the lands AIC will provide business planning services, assistance with compiling business proposals and securing grant funding, as well as establish market linkages, crop selection and scheduling recommendations, along with guidance on developing best agricultural practices.
The Rural Agricultural Development Agency RADA will also play a role in supporting the zone through the offering of extension services which will enable the efficient use of the lands being occupied.