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Yam Packaging Facility Opens In South Trelawny

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A yam packaging facility was officially opened at Wait-A-Bit, in South Trelawny, by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, on February 22.

The building, which was refurbished at a cost of $16 million, represents the first of six similar plants scheduled to be established islandwide, as part of the Ministry’s proposed post-harvest management infrastructure, as annual losses to farmers in this area are estimated to be as high as 40 per cent.

The Wait-A-Bit facility is expected to serve as a collection point for yam produced in Trelawny and neighbouring areas, to be sorted, graded and packaged for the local and export markets.

Already, the facility has been up and running, having purchased some 40,000 pounds of yam, which will be shipped to New York, in the United States, next week.

Addressing the many farmers who attended the opening, the Minister said that yam production last year totalled 124,000 tons, an increase of about 20 per cent over 2008, and some 25 per cent of overall domestic production in the country.

“Last year, all of our farmers produced some 480,000 tons of food, and of this amount yam farmers produced about 124,000 tons, showing the significance of yam production to the food basket and the production process. We exported some $1.5 billion worth of yams into the traditional markets of North America, Canada and Europe, and of the four yam producing parishes, Trelawny achieved a whopping 50 per cent of all yam produced in the country,” Dr. Tufton noted.

He pointed out that the facility in the heart of South Trelawny is appropriately placed, in order to recognise the efforts of the farmers and to provide for all the farmers, an opportunity to dispose of their product, adding that statistics have shown that some 95,000 farmers are involved in yam production on 17,000 hectares of land islandwide.

“This investment is an investment in everyone and it requires collaboration. We are committed to assisting the farmers through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the extension services in educating them on best practices and new approaches in maximising production. We are therefore encouraging you all to register with RADA, in order for you to benefit from the many support opportunities available,” Dr. Tufton urged.

The Minister argued that with a better understanding of the marketplace, “we are going to see Jamaican yam take wings and fly to every part of this globe.”

The exporting company, Sure Jamaica Exports Limited, which was successful in acquiring the lease of the facility, has put plans in motion for some 29,000 boxes of yellow yam to be shipped to the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom during this year, and to increase output to 180,000 boxes by 2015.

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