KINGSTON — The government plans to cease importing Irish potatoes within the next two to three years, as part of the thrust to reduce the country’s high food import bill.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry made the declaration during a ceremony at the Ace Supercentre in White Marl, St. Catherine to officially launch the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show 2013.
“We have put in place the necessary policy and support systems to ensure that within the next two to three years we can stop importing table Irish potatoes all together,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary is optimistic that this target can be achieved within the time frame as the Ministry is working to sustain the current production level of locally grown Irish potatoes, which is currently between 80 and 85 per cent of demand.
Stanberry said that for this year in particular, farmers have benefitted greatly from the production of the crop, noting that the farm gate price “has not gone below $45 per pound of Irish potato”.
The Permanent Secretary said the Ministry also intends to replicate the “Irish potato experience” with onions, which also contribute to the huge import bill, noting that it is “just mind blowing in terms of the amount of onions we consume and we are importing” on a yearly basis.
“In the same way that we have treated with Irish potato, we are also going to treat with onions by providing the necessary support through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, by arranging financing through the Peoples’ Cooperative Banks and Development Bank of Jamaica,” he stated.
He said further that “we will also be making a significant portion of the 8,000 acres of lands in our agro parks (available) to onion farmers and by managing the imports to ensure that in a similar way, we can increase significantly, the amount of onion we consume from local production and in the process our farmers make a little money.” (Observer)