(by Tony Thomas Fri Jan 4th 12:15 AM)
During my lunch break on Monday I was listening to the Caribbean program “The Open Line” on WAVS 1170 when a caller related a true story about farming in Jamaica. He was driving by a property in Clarendon when he noticed that it was overrun by weeds and thick grass. He remembered that this property was once a thriving piece of land.
He visited the owner to find out why he is no longer producing any crop and found out he was very ill. Apparently he was not able to care for the land or find someone he could trust to do so. He asked if he could lease the property for 15 years. Arrangement was made with the owner and his son in the UK and he (as an experienced farmer) went about clearing the land and producing cash crops like pepper.
He encouraged others to seek out run-down or forbidden properties, find the owners and try to make similar arrangements. The demand for fresh home-grown crops is great right now. Fresh produce can be sold at the local market and at hotels and restaurants across the country.
According to a recent Ministry of Agriculture report “The dilemma is that although there are a lot of underutilized lands across the island, a high portion of food is still being imported. For example, 50-80% of the food used in the hotel industry is imported. There are a variety of reasons for this but none are insurmountable. Reliability, quality, seasonability and quantity are the main issues.” (Source: http://www.moa.gov.jm/jam/jamaica2.pdf)
In the January 2nd issue of the Jamaica Observer it was reported that “…major farm projects that are on the drawing table could mean a big boost for agriculture this year, while continued expansion in the use of greenhouse technology seen in 2012 may carry through to 2013.”
“Key among the projects is Red Stripe’s plans to establish commercial agreements with farmers to cultivate over 2,000 acres with cassava and sorghum to replace imported barley for input into its beer.” (Read more)
The website for the Ministry of Agriculture offers a wealth of information about farming opportunities in Jamaica including the cost of production of certain crops, the projected marketable yield and the time it takes a plant, fruit or vegetable to mature. Here are a few estimated costs of producing certain crops:
Cost of production: $15 per kg
Crop Maturity: 3 Months
Projected Marketable Yield: 12,955 per kg
Cost of production: $85 per kg
Crop Maturity: 3 Months + 4 months reaping
Projected Marketable Yield: 14,108 per kg
Cost of production: $23 per kg (in Clarendon)
Crop Maturity: 3.5 Months
Projected Marketable Yield: 8,182 per kg
Cost of production: $57 per kg
Crop Maturity: 3 Months
Projected Marketable Yield: 6,545 per kg