The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is looking to identify more arable lands on which to cultivate sorghum, a crop currently being tested as a substitute grain for animal feed. This was disclosed by portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, while speaking to journalists today (April 19), following the harvesting of a pilot sorghum crop in Hill Run, St. Catherine.
The Caribbean Broilers (CB) Group undertook the test project at its facility, to grow sorghum locally for feedstock as a replacement for imported corn. The Minister noted that lands have already been identified at Amity Hall in St. Thomas at one of the nine agro parks being developed across the island, aimed at enhancing food security and cutting the country's food import bill. He informed that the CB Group will be undertaking this planting exercise and that the land is currently being prepared.
"We're targeting in that agro park, some 1,700 acres. They (CB Group) are moving now to put in 800 (acres)...and we're trying to identify more lands. They have asked for some 6,000 acres...so the sustainability is there and we are determined to put whatever idle lands we have into production," the Minister said.
Sorghum is a genus of numerous grass species, some of which are raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants. The plants take three to four months to reach maturity and are cultivated in warm climates around the world. "We are not only dealing with sorghum. We are dealing with other crops. We are going to be doing probably over 600 acres of onions. We are already moving with Irish potatoes – a whole slew of things that we're doing (to utilize arable lands)," Mr. Clarke said.
The Minister said he is pleased with the impact that growing the sorghum locally "will have on our importing grains for our animal feed". "This was just an experimental plot, but the yield has been significant in terms of international standards and it's just the beginning. This is just a start. What (CB Group) has learnt here is what will help them to improve in production and productivity as we go along," he stated.
Manager, Corporate Affairs, CB Group, Dr. Keith Amiel, informed that 60 per cent of the corn that goes in feedstock is imported, hence the need to create a local substitute. "The idea is to try to see how much of what we've been importing we can produce locally....We are going to try to make use of the unused land...it would take us about 6,000 acres to produce 10 per cent of the (crop) locally and of course, we can go up to any amount using the land that's available," he said.
Agriculture Consultant, Johnny Haer, noted that sorghum is a dry land crop that is grown all over the world, because of its hardiness in drought and dry weather. He pointed out that this "is one of the reasons why we felt like it would do so good here in Jamaica...I don't see why sorghum is not going to adapt very well to the Jamaican climate." He noted that the crop harvested from the 300-acre plot, is estimated to "probably end up yielding...roughly 3,000 pounds per acre or 1.5 tonnes per acre."