In recognition of the need to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of Irish Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has spearheaded a National Irish Potato Production Programme to ensure that there is increased production which will directly assist in the efforts towards import substitution.
The National Irish Potato Programme is geared toward achieving 100% of tabled potato by 2015. Areas of focus were therefore placed on two areas: crop nutrition and pest management which represents a significant portion of production cost and directly impact on yields and quality of tubers.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries sought to establish access to high quality seeds, provision of high quality extension support, farmers’ capacity building through training, use of best crop and pest management practices and market linkages in order to allow for an intervention that will lead to sustainable development of the Irish Potato industry.
The National Irish Potato Programme 2013-2014 aimed to provide support to farmers in the Guys Hill, Christiana, High Gate areas (St. Mary, Manchester) and parts of Trelawny and St. Ann
The Ministry through RADA sought to ensure the following:
- Provision of training in agricultural best practices (training delivery through Farmer Field Schools)
- Pesticides were available to farmers in a timely manner for suppressing pest population at the early stages and minimizing risks of pest outbreaks.
- Food safety for consumers and emphasis on the environmental well-being through the use of products approved by the Pesticides Control Authority.
- Suitable land preparation with right tilt for production.
- Fertilizer procurement and distribution on a timely basis.
The Programme also provided 100% support for farmers under the Youth and Women component. This was the Ministry’s commitment to engage young farmers in the age range 18-35 category.
The following external organizations must be commended for the support given to the Programme: Newport Fersan, Agro- Grace, Gladstonbury Potato, St. Jago Farm Store,T. Geddes Grant and Canadian Hunger Foundation
With the level of self-sufficiency in Irish Potato quantified at 86.9%, the farmers are upbeat and highly motivated about the programme and many have expressed their desire for further expansion in the 2015 planting season.