February 20, 2008
The Department of Agriculture on Nevis announced that it increased its onion cultivation for the 2008 planting season from 7.5 acres in 2007 to nine acres to take advantage of the commodity’s increased world market price.
Director of Agriculture Dr. Kelvin Daly on the island told the Department of Information in a recent interview that the Department of Agriculture had toyed with the idea of phasing out onion cultivation in 2007 because it was not cost effective. However, since that year’s harvest, world prices had increased by 100 percent, a decision was taken to increase production.
“Since the last crop in 2007 the cost has increased almost 100 percent on the international market it [onion] has become now a more viable product to anything else. So we are increasing the acreage, the price has stabilized around $75-$80 per 50 pound bag and up to last year, it was up to $117 per bag.
“I don’t foresee it [price] coming back down simply because the world demand has increased, production somehow has decreased and therefore it’s a sellers market I should say. So we are increasing our production by an acre and a half approximately,” he said.
Dr. Daly explained that most of the cultivation was concentrated at New River with the exception of a few acres at Prospect and Port Works but logistically, it was easier to manage a crop when it was one place and as such New River was designated as the onion production area.
He noted that cultivation so far entailed two acres through seedling and the other seven acres would be planted by direct seed and indicated that there was a reason for the difference.
“The reason for the two acres under seedlings is simply a trial to see whether its labour effective, cost effective to do it that way. So we germinate here [at Prospect Estate] in our germination centre and we send them over to New River and they are planted at the four inch spacing, so it should be a bumper crop of onions from that plot.
“We were fortunate this year to get access to a full compliment of double row drips irrigation and so we expect even more production than last year,” he said.
Dr. Daly explained that subsequent to planting the growth of the onions were being monitored and all indications were that the crop was progressing smoothly.
“We will be monitoring the invasion by monkeys (we keep it under control we have some electric fences in the area) and we anticipate that once we get the situations under control the irrigation and monkeys we should be looking at about 18,000pounds per acre,” he said.
In its pursuit for a greater yield and to take advantage of world market prices, the Department of Agriculture also embarked on some experiments with the varieties of onions.
“We are planting here different types of varieties. We are planting a variety called H7 which is a late season type variety. It is prone to splitting but I think the splitting is as a result of poor irrigation and we hope to solve that problem. We are planting a red variety, some persons like the red, we are planting a couple acres of red onions and the large 1067 that’s our major crop.
“It should be an exciting time because it is a trial for us to plant so late in the season, as well as using all this new technology of constant drip, mulching, fertilizer we are anticipating a huge crop of onions this year,” he said.