The Ministry of Agriculture is looking to give its extension services an upgrade in an effort to better meet the needs of the farming community.

News of this has come from Acting Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer, Charleston Lucas, who said the Ministry would be working to not only increase the number of officers in that section but would seek to make better use of farming technology to carry out their work.

"They [extension officers] would be able to go out into the field, collect the data and send it directly back to headquarters. This would assist in the production of relevant data and also ensure it is current. When they go to visit they could provide information, for example, on the acreage of various crops in the different zones where they are working. So, at any point in time we can have a handle on what is planted or what is due to be harvested in the coming weeks," he explained.

This, Mr. Lucas suggested, would assist the Ministry of Agriculture in terms of forward planning for the sector to determine, for example, the need for the importation of agricultural produce.

The Official said there were also plans for the extension services to work closely with the research department and other specialists in the ministry in an effort to disseminate more information out to the farming community.

With regard to the subsidies and rebates for farmers, Mr. Lucas noted the Ministry was seeking to reduce the amount of time it took for applicants to receive their funds.

"We are trying to shorten the time whereby applicants for the concessions and rebates could get back part of the monies spent upfront. We are working hard to ensure that within two to three weeks you can get the refunds," he said.

Mr. Lucas also encouraged the farming community to make greater use of the concessions and rebates being offered by the ministry.

"There are a number of rebates and incentives available. Some are not being utilised as much as we had anticipated. We try to get the information out to the farmers concerning the availability of these incentives, how quickly they could be accessed and any prior preparation that is required before they come into the Ministry, so that processing can run as smoothly as possible," he explained.

Mr. Lucas added that the Ministry was also in the process of reducing the amount of time it took for farmers to register at the Ministry of Agriculture.


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