Efforts ‘bear fruit’ in agriculture sector

| 14/02/2011

(CNS): Government goals to reduce food imports and make the local agriculture sector self sufficient are bearing fruit – literally, according to government officials. A release from GIS on Monday said that across the country farmers are increasing their crop yield, beefing up livestock holdings, and using technology to efficiently maximize production. Minister of Lands and Agriculture Juliana O’Connor-Connolly says her ministry intends to lease crown land in East End for farming purposes as she strives towards future food security. “This will enable us to reduce food imports and costs, while generating income for farmers and the wider economy,” the minister said.

“We aim to advance the sector to a point where, even after a natural disaster like Ivan, we can still have at least seven days supply of food on-island to meet the population’s needs. With that in mind, I am also keen to see the widespread use of backyard farming contributing to Cayman’s food security,” she added.

The minister emphasised that there is hope for the industry. “I am pleased with the growth that I see taking place in this sector. When I compare what I saw on last year’s tours to now, it is clear that things are progressing rapidly,” she said in the official release from GIS. She pointed to an emerging group of young farmers who are holding their own among the veterans, along with entrepreneurs who are also engaging in farming.

The minister said young goat farmer Nicholas Ebanks was an example of the new generation of farmers as in just one year he had expanded his livestock holdings from a few animals to several hundred.

Farmers have made great strides in animal and crop care, she added, using advanced techniques, including reverse osmosis (to convert salt water to fresh), drip irrigation, greenhouse technology, and other modern technologies.

“I saw cutting edge systems when I visited Kent Rankin’s farm; he is currently constructing a bio-digester which will help convert pig-waste to energy for use on the farm. Gone are the days when farmers regarded their work as a hobby. It is now a full- fledged business that is significantly impacting the country,” O’Connor-Connolly stated.

The minister attributed the growth in local farming not just to the farmers’ initiatives and passion but the assistance given by the ministry through the Department of Agriculture (DoA). That help includes technical support, aid in crop production and animal care, clearance and preparation of land for cultivation and overseas training, government officials said.

Departmental Director Adrian Estwick said activity in the Islands’ agriculture sector had intensified, with the visible evidence comprising increased production, greater investment by farmers and extra demands on his department’s services.

As a result of the sector’s expansion, the DoA is planning to establish an Agriculture Sector Market Information System to compile data on agricultural production. This will enable the country to collect more accurate performance data. Estwick added that the information system would be a key step in helping the DoA identify the marketing needs for agriculture products and how both the department and the ministry should deploy resources.

Farmers now have more outlets for their produce, with the Lower Valley’s Market at the Grounds concept now being adopted in other parts of the island.

Cayman Islands Agriculture Society President Errol Watler, who owns Sparkies Farm, said there was a growing understanding among farmers of the importance of modernisation. “Farmers who are doing well are those who have embraced technology and new ways of doing things. The strugglers are the ones who continue to do things the old fashioned way,” Watler said.

Goat farmer Nicholas Ebanks said that his goal was to see the agriculture sector be on par with tourism relative to national importance and the level of investment. In the last few weeks, government officials said, O’Connor-Connolly has visited eleven farms across Grand Cayman in East End, West Bay, Bodden Town and Spotts Newlands.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Ted Moult says:

    This whole agri thing is total -er- bull you know what. Cayman cannot become self suficient as our land mass is appalling for agricultural purposes. Errol Watler was on radio today spouting on about it being a leg of the economy. PULEESE. That’s just to get Julianna to give farmerson GCM more money and so it allows her to give those on the Brac ten times that amount because after all it’s the Brac.Let’s do what we can with growing things but for God’s sake stop pretending we are real life farmers.

    Post script: For the last three years I have bought local tomatoes in FFF in Savannah. They were competitively priced -$1:99 – and the quality was good. This year they have been as much as $2:99, poor quality and tasteless. I buy the tasteless plum tomatoes at $1:45 instead. If it’s tasteless I’m getting may as well get the cheapest.

  2. noname says:

    The ministry needs to look at crop & farm insurance as this is holding the sector back from large scale development! If this was implemented then lending could be more easily obtained. Also, to create a fair market we need to look at agricultural subsidies as the US food we consume is heavily sudsidies which creates an unfair advantage for outside markets. If seasonal adjustments to the duty rate for some agricultural products was instituted then we could encourage more local production. Kudos on the modern tech. being used as this will enable us to keep production up year around .

  3. David Shibli says:

    Based on the following report, this would appear to be an excellent direction in which this nation is going.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12474021

  4. noname says:

    Glad to hear that this project is working and hopefully the Ministry can push for more backyard farming and look in to investing in a Hydroponic farm and use solar energy. Residents should start collecting plant waste and use for farming and energy. Good work to all the local farmers as it’s a tough business and it ain’t nothing better than eating home grown food.

    All the best,

  5. Anonymous says:

    "using technology to efficiently maximize production" is exactly why I prefer to buy local than overseas. I’m hoping our farmers do not take on the same practices used in North America and the rest of the world to yield as much meat as they can as quickly as possible.

    Keep it organic and advertise it as such, we will pay for the quality.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It’s positive news now but wait til Austin and Gilbert (the former minister for agriculture) get a hold of it tomorrow morning,,,

  7. Anonymous says:

     it is good to read about something positive happening in Cayman. Farmers should keep in mind that organic produce, grass fed meat are in demand.  Also someone should be able to certify the quality. I see that cayman honey is being sold, but noone can tell me if it raw or processed.