Greetings by the Hon. Luther Buchanan, MP Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
The Official Opening of the Bull Dead and Frederick Piece Roads
January 14, 2016
I am very pleased to be participating in the official opening of these two roads this afternoon that have been rehabilitated under the Government’s $300-million Farm Roads Rehabilitation Programme. This programme is being managed by the Ministry through the Rural Agricultural Development Agency.
As you are aware, Government has been investing in road infrastructure islandwide and because agriculture is such an important pillar of the economy we are also investing in farm roads. Under this programme, over 21 roads will be rehabilitated, Phase 1 of which covers several roads in St. Elizabeth, St. James, St. Andrew, St Thomas and here in Manchester at a cost of $86 million.
Today, we celebrate with the over 55 hardworking farmers in this area, who produce crops such as sweet potato, string bean, Irish potato, cucumber, pumpkin, carrot, and yam, as well as rear cows and goats, on some 90 acres of land, the completion of the rehabilitation of the Fredrick Piece and Bull Dead roads.
I wish to congratulate the contractor, Patrick Thompson, for the timely completion of these roads and based on what I have seen it appears to be a job well done.
Ladies and gentlemen, work on these roads (Bull Dead and Fredrick Piece) began in November 2015 and was completed at an approximate cost of $5.343 million and $3.345 million, respectively. I believe this is money well spent as it will facilitate not only easier access for the farmers to their farms, but will also reduce the costs to transport their produce to the various markets.
The Ministry is committed to improving the infrastructure for our farmers and so in addition to the roads which are being rehabilitated under this programme, we have completed the rehabilitation of over 80 kms of cane roads in all cane-growing parishes through the European Union-funded Sugar Transformation Programme. I am also pleased to say that we will continue that programme in the next Financial Year, beginning in April 2016, with another 80 kms of cane road rehabilitation.
Ladies and gentlemen, the nation’s food security is of paramount importance to us and that is why one the flagship programmes of the Ministry’s import substitution strategy is that of self-sufficiency in Irish potato. In that regard, Manchester as a prime potato-producing area has been playing a significant role in our efforts to achieve same.
We were on target to achieve full self-sufficiency in 2015, but unfortunately, the drought has delayed our achievement of that target. It is, however, our intention to cease importation of table Irish potato by the end of this calendar year. Our overall target for the 2015/2016 programme is to plant 1,200 hectares and the target for the Christiana, Manchester area is 850 hectares. And I know we can count on you to help us to achieve this goal.
Another initiative that the Ministry has been pursuing as we seek to expand our markets while improving farmers’ ability to earn foreign exchange is the introduction of new varieties of sweet potatoes. Through our Clean Seed Programme which is being implemented by the our Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine we have introduced the Beauregard sweet potato for which we have identified markets for at least 200 acres and a number of farmers have begun planting this new variety. The Government has invested in the infrastructure to produce high quality planting material and to provide technical assistance to improve farmer yields and ultimately your earnings. I therefore encourage you, if you have not yet done so, to get on board.
In closing, let me commend RADA, and the contractor for the successful completion of the roads and I look forward to coming back in the near future to participate in the opening of the others.
I thank you.