Farmers in the coffee industry are to benefit from fertiliser acquired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries at a cost of $20 million to improve crop productivity. The nearly 12,000 bags of fertiliser, procured from local manufacturer, Newport Fersan (Jamaica) Limited, were presented to portfolio Minister, Roger Clarke, on May 8, at the company's Wherry Wharf complex at Newport East, Kingston.
They will be distributed to farmers who are registered with the Coffee Industry Board, and who have delivered coffee within the last 24 months. The provision of the fertiliser forms part of the government’s efforts to resuscitate the coffee industry. In February, the Ministry committed $29 million to the sector, $20 million of which was earmarked for providing fertilizer; while the remaining $9 million will assist efforts to counter the dreaded coffee berry borer, including assisting the Coffee Berry Borer Task Force to effect pest control and eradication.
Minister Clarke, in his remarks at the handing over, said the government is committed to facilitating the growth and rebuilding of the coffee industry. He said the sector has “suffered tremendously” over the past few years, resulting in a significant fall in production, but stated that the donation, among other measures, will enable farmers to “rise like a phoenix from the ashes”.
“We have had marketing problems, we had a disease problem. But we cannot give up on that industry because we produce the best coffee in the world and we have to make sure that we bring these coffee farmers back into the limelight because we want them to produce,” he said.
Mr. Clarke said plans are being explored to diversify the markets to ensure that farmers receive the best prices available. “As they are producing, we are out there making sure that we will diversify those markets that when they produce, we don’t have to depend on one purchaser; so we will be looking for other markets,” he said.
The Minister also commended Newport Fersan for partnering with the government in providing quality products to the industry. “Agriculture is the mainstay of our rural communities and we must make sure that we do everything that is possible to make sure that the (sector) grows,” he said.
Managing Director, Newport Fersan, Dennis Valdez, said the fertiliser will help to enhance the production and productivity of crops. “These fertilisers we have manufactured for the coffee sector include our latest and exclusive technology in the form of special addictives and enhancers at no additional cost...this will further increase already expected high yields for the benefits of those farmers, who produce the best coffee in the world,” he said.
He said Newport Fersan is a committed partner in the agricultural sector, providing employment for many downtown residents and pro bono strategic and technical support to the Ministry.For his part, Director General, Coffee Industry Board, Christopher Gentles, said the fertiliser will assist greatly in the resuscitation of the industry. “We are doing much better than we thought we would have done at this point in time. The end of the crop is in June and we have done 186,000 boxes of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee to date and 37,000 boxes of High Mountain Coffee,” he said, adding that there is another 10 per cent of the crop to be reaped.
He noted that coffee farmers are producing on average 25 boxes per acre, down from 56 boxes. He blamed the decline on a series of inclement weather conditions and storms and the global economic climate.