Monday, April 22, 2024

Jamaica aiming to meet full demand for Irish potatoes

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The agricultural sector is aiming to supply 100 per cent of local demand for Irish potato in another three years.

This was noted by Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Karl Samuda, in an interview with JIS News at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the in vitro propagation of Irish potato seeds programme yesterday at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices.

The minister pointed out that the country spends over US$4 million annually to import 90 per cent of Irish potato seeds, and that the programme is a “step in the right direction” towards achieving self-sufficiency.

“We are seeking now to move from 85 per cent production against the demand to 100 per cent. I am hoping we can do that within three years,” Samuda said.

Under the MOU, the objectives are the provision of equipment to develop better control of pests and diseases; the improvement of seed quality; independence and control of seed availability; and increasing the yield per hectare.

The MOU was signed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, which has responsibility for Bodles Research Station; the Scientific Research Council (SRC); the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

Under the project, the three laboratories at Bodles, SRC and NCU have been equipped to produce 800 000 Irish potato tissue culture plantlets with micro tubers within a year.

With the equipment and reagents provided, it is expected that the laboratories will have the capacity to generate 4.8 million micro tubers from the plantlets produced.

Samuda said the sector aims to increase the 1 000 hectares of crop planted in 2015-2016 to 1 200 hectares for the 2016-2017 crop year.

Meanwhile, managing director of JSIF, Omar Sweeney, said the initiative will give the country independence from importing seeds which are often five to six years old and carry diseases, resulting in poor yields.

The cost of producing micro tubers locally is approximately US$1.4 million, whereas imported micro tubers cost US$ 2.4 million.  

The project is being implemented by JSIF under the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), with funding of $18.2 million being provided by the World Bank.

The MOU, which will also govern the working relationship of the agencies involved, will be effective for a 12-month period and is slated to end in January 2018. (JIS)

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