Despite several challenges last year, the Agricultural sector continues to show signs of increases. Food production increased to 500,305 t, the highest output in more than a decade. The increase represents a 2.2 percent increase over 2009 level of production (489,671 t), and eclipsed the 491, 473 t achieved in 2003. A preliminary assessment of the figures, indicate that the overall sector grew marginally by 1 percent.
The disclosure was made by Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, at a press conference to review the performance of the fourth quarter of 2010 as well as the year 2010, at the Ministry’s Head Office, Hope Gardens, Kingston this morning.
While commending the nation’s farmers for their resilience, Dr. Tufton noted that the weather played a crucial part in crop production throughout 2010. “In the first half of the year we had to contend with a major drought – the worse in some 20 years…that spell was eventually broken in May with rain, but in September we were struck by Tropical Storm Nicole which impacted our fourth quarter.”
For the Fourth Quarter, the production of domestic crops recorded a decrease of 6.7 percent, while for the overall year there was a decrease of 5 percent. The Agriculture Minister said the impact of Tropical Storm Nicole severely restricted land preparation and crop establishment, as the flooding took time to subside. He said the country did well up to the third quarter which recorded 140,463 t, compared with 123,777 t for the corresponding period in 2009.
On a crop by crop basis, there were declines in yam -2.8; fruits -26 percent and vegetables -12 percent, while there were increases in tubers 23 percent; plantain 9 percent and cereal 9 percent. And despite the fact that all the main producing Central parishes all recorded declines in production for the quarter, not all parishes had declines. Of note were St. Mary 22.6 percent; St. James 16 percent and Portland 11 percent, while there were major declines in St. Elizabeth --19 percent; Manchester -16 percent and Trewlany -7 percent.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tufton noted that our dependence on imports needs to be curtailed. He said initiatives such as the Production and Productivity Programme will have to help drive up our productivity levels to achieve greater efficiencies in the sector.
The Agriculture Minister noted that, despite the challenges, confidence in the sector remains high and the Ministry intends to build on the gains realized, through an aggressive import substitution strategy, accompanied by greater push for regional and international exports of not only primary products, but with greater emphases on the creation and export of value-added products.