Sun | Feb 25, 2024

Irish potato scare in Guy’s Hill

Published:Wednesday | April 13, 2022 | 12:08 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
A farmer displays two Irish potatoes which are affected by a rare condition.
A farmer displays two Irish potatoes which are affected by a rare condition.

With the emphasis on increasing Jamaica’s Irish potato output to satisfy domestic demands, which could be crucial with the world’s number three and four Irish potato producers now at war, some Irish potato farmers in Springfield and Guy’s Hill have alluded to a rare condition currently affecting their yield.

President of the Springfield farmers group in Guy’s Hill, St Catherine, Winston Thompson, and other members of the group who were encouraged by the establishment of the National Irish Potato Production Programme in 2018, a part of the Government’s overall strategy to enhance Jamaica’s domestic food production to reduce imports, have become less enthusiastic and are now thinking of getting out of Irish potato farming and concentrate on other crops.

Thompson ventilated the farmers’ frustration, pointing to their disenchantment in the Government’s flagship initiative in which $1 billion have been invested since the launch of the programme.

Incurring personal losses of over $400,000 for the 2021 to 2022 reaping season, Thompson described a rare condition affecting potato farms in the area.

“There are a variety of challenges that we are having right now and we can’t say which one, but this really looks like a disease, my potato dried down before it even ripe,” he revealed, referring to the condition as ‘late blight’, which he described as the withering of the potato plants before they start to develop.

50 PER CENT WIPE OUT

“I am not sure if it is the preparation of the land or the seeds, we have not got it retested to see,” Thompson added.

He said when it is time for reaping some of the plants do not produce any potatoes, a situation experienced by most of the potato farmers in the group with up to 50 per cent of their crops wiped out.

Bertham Grant was even more frustrated with his losses; he had just reaped two boxes and was unable to get the correct price for the produce. He said he sowed seeds he bought from a farmer’s store in the area and after six weeks, he discovered that the plants dried up.

“So mi draw up one of the tree and when mi look on the root mi see a lot of bump on the root and I call one of mi field officer and when him come check it him sey a disease,” Grant disclosed while estimating his losses so far to be more than $500,000.

Rural Agricultural Development Authority Agronomist Locksley Waites said the farmers could in fact be experiencing early blight because they failed to apply the prescribed fungicide at the right time.

“In the first four to five weeks there is no need for spraying; however, the prescribed spray should be applied accordingly thereafter to avoid fungal infestation,” Waite said.

He said Irish potato producers in the Guy’s Hill area harvested 16.7 tonnes of produce during the 2021 to 2022 harvest season.

ruddy.mathison@gleanerjm.com