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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Jamaica: $18-m project to cut need for imported Irish potato seeds

The Government has pumped more than $18 million into the establishment of an in vitro propagation of Irish potato seeds programme in a bid to reduce the country’s dependence on imported seeds. The Government is also hoping that the programme will increase the yields of Irish potato farmers across the island. The project, which is a component of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries’ National Irish Potato Development Programme, will be implemented with the assistance of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), the Scientific Research Council (SRC), and the Northern Caribbean University (NCU). ... “Jamaica spends more than US$4 million annually to import approximately 90 per cent of Irish potato seeds… these seeds are five to six years old and are sometimes carrying diseases that are not visible, resulting in poor yields for our farmers...,” JSIF Managing Director Omar Sweeney said in his remarks at the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the project held on Wednesday at the ministry’s offices in New Kingston. He noted that a crucial part of the project was the contracting of a microbiologist from Belgium, who assessed the laboratories and reported that the three labs are best suited for the project. Sweeney added that the labs have the capacity to produce 800,000 plantlets in one year, which will in turn be capable of producing 4.8 million micro-tubers. “So the facilities are ready, we have a modern laboratory, equipment and personnel, so we are ready to go. Getting this project off, it has a lot of significance... when it comes to helping out, especially the farmers… because they do depend upon potatoes, and so to have propagated Irish potato seeds will give the best quality and we’ll rely less on imports,” Associate vice-president for graduate studies and research at NCU, Paul Gyles, told the Jamaica Observer.

Source: www.jamaicaobserver.com