Farmers in the St James are set to benefit from an agro-processing incubator project currently under construction on the grounds of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) offices at Catherine Hall in the parish.
It is expected that construction of the 1,500 sq. ft. facility will be completed by September ahead of start-up of operations by January 2017 to facilitate the processing and packaging of agricultural products such as jams, jellies, flour and chips.
before a tour of the facility on Thursday (August 11), Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon. J.C. Hutchinson welcomed the project as part of Government’s thrust to move the agricultural sector up the value chain from primary produce to value added production.
Minister Hutchinson said that the processing of the produce under HACAAP food safety conditions would also allow for the certification of the products for export. He further encouraged the farmers to make use of the facility and to participate in the training opportunities to be provided by RADA in processing.
The Minister stressed the importance of utilising technology in agriculture in order to increase production and productivity in the sector. He congratulated the small farmers for their contribution to the recent 13% growth in the sector and also signalled the increased involvement of small farmers in the distribution of inputs supplied by the RADA, saying that the bulk of these inputs would be channelled through the Produce and Marketing Organisations (PMOs) in farming communities across the island.
In her comments, Kemeisha Batchan project manager of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Programme of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) explained that her organisation, working in partnership with RADA, was spending $200 million to provide food-processing incubators for some 4,000 farmers in seven parishes, with four of those being located in western Jamaica.
Miss Batchan explained that the services of business development consultants will be engaged to develop the operational framework, production practices and marketing strategies for the processing facility.