Sorghum Production Will Reduce Import Bill – Minister Clarke

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, says the production of sorghum in Jamaica augurs well for the future of the agriculture industry.

He said that large scale cultivation of the crop will boost the livestock industry and also assist in reducing the sector’s almost $2 billion per year import bill.

“We want to see how much of a dent we can make into the importation of animal feeds and other inputs into the agricultural sector; anything that we can do to save foreign exchange is something that is good for the country,” he stated.

Minister Clarke was speaking to JIS News following a tour of the Caribbean Broilers Group sorghum facilities on Thursday, February 7, in Hill Run, St. Catherine.

Sorghum is a genus of numerous grass species, some of which are raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants.  The plants take three to four months to reach maturity and are cultivated in warm climates around the world.

Caribbean Broilers is growing the crop to be used for feedstock as a replacement for imported corn. The Minister lauded the initiative, stating that he is impressed by the results so far.

 “As we speak, they have just put in 20 acres on an experimental basis. They have bought machines and they intend to do thousands of acres…they have brought in expertise from the United States and based on the results so far, it is very encouraging,” Minister Clarke told JIS News.

He said the Ministry has been having discussions with Caribbean Broilers regarding the production of local animal feeds and is willing to partners to other private sector entities in the effort.

“I have committed to working with them to see wherever Government lands are available and we would work with them to see how we can get them to expand production,” the Minister told JIS News.

“Anything that can assist with import substitution, I am all for it. If you can save us one tonne of importation, I am with you,” he added.

Visiting Consultant and Agriculturist, Johnny Hare, said that sorghum, which is similar to corn, can be grown successfully in Jamaica to replace imported corn being used in animal feed rations.   

“There has not been a lot of sorghum grown in Jamaica for grain… at the end of this first stage of this project, we need to identify what we are going to do for weed control, insect control, fungus control, and the way forward,” he said.

He informed that planting of the next crop is expected to commence on March 1.

“There’s so much land in Jamaica that is not in production and if we can bring the technology and the knowledge that makes America the bread basket of the world, to Jamaica, and we can put that land to work. I believe it will be good for all of Jamaica,” he said.

In his remarks, Manager, Corporate Affairs, Caribbean Broilers, Dr. Keith Amiel said, “the sorghum here is exciting in that it’s specially bred to produce very large heads so that the yield will be substantial.”

He said the cultivation of sorghum forms part of the company’s food security initiative and is expected to create jobs while reducing the island’s import bill.