Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague says the Ministry will be seeking to develop a programme to push the production of turmeric, which is the basis of the curry spice, a favourite of many Jamaicans.
“We import $4 million worth of this spice…and it grows wild in Jamaica. It costs less than $100,000 per acre to produce. So, I am developing a programme to push production in that spice, along with ginger,” Mr. Montague informed.
He was speaking at a recertification ceremony, held at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road headquarters in Kingston on September 20, where parish managers of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) were presented with certificates on behalf of their extension officers across the 13 parishes.
Mr. Montague said that if ways are not found to utilise land, such as in the development of non-traditional crops like turmeric, then all the knowledge that extension officers had gained would “come to naught.”
He noted also that as part of the thrust to increase agricultural production and rural development as a whole, the Ministry would be focusing on the production of Irish potatoes and onions this year.
“The PC banks have been very kind to reduce their interest rates to six per cent, and we want to make a big push in the production of Irish potatoes and onions. We import approximately $3 billion worth of Irish potatoes and onions into the country each year (and) if we can make some space at the table to our producers, we will be able to increase farm family income and then we will see rural development pushing on,” Mr. Montague said.
The recertification programme was launched in 2010, and seeks to build and maintain the competence of extension officers in appropriate agricultural and productivity enhancing technologies.
Under the first phase of the programme, all extension personnel were required to complete a minimum of 60 hours exposure to the latest technologies applicable to the sector’s needs.
Up to March 2011, some of the key achievements of the programme were: the laying of groundwork for a more impact-oriented extension training system; strengthening of technical knowledge and skills in key areas; strengthening of implementation, monitoring and evaluation capacity; reinforcement of modern, standardised training approach; and strengthening of the extension network.
Some of the entities with which the Ministry and RADA collaborated on the programme included: the HEART Trust/NTA, the University of the West Indies, the Northern Caribbean University, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, the Vocational Training Development Institute , Agro-Grace, and St. Jago Farm Supplies.
A total of 150 certificates were awarded, inclusive of 98 to extension officers, and the remainder to agricultural assistants.