Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas said during a Senate hearing Monday that Puerto Rico produces more than 1.2 million pounds of rice on about 350 acres of land as part of a Food Safety Plan launched by the current administration.
The harvest has generated 6,273 jobs since its inception and the rice is delivered to public school lunchrooms islandwide, she said, while discussing the Food Safety Plan and a need to further develop local farmlands.
During the hearing, she said Agriculture is also working on a number of other initiatives, including: establishing and expanding enterprises to produce milk byproducts; preparing some 4,400 acres for beef cattle production; signing a collaboration agreement with the Department of Corrections so that Guayama inmates build 500 beehives boxes that are being distributed free of charge to beekeepers.
Meanwhile, the agency confirmed there has been an increase in the production of bananas, pineapples, oranges, mangos, cantaloupe and honeydew melons. Regarding the pineapple market, Comas said 70 acres of new farmlands have been earmarked for the production of the fruit and to enable farmers to generate their own seeds.
“This product has great potential not only for the local market but for the U.S. institutional market,” she said.
However, she admitted the agency has had a tough time helping to revive the pork and chicken industries, upon facing challenges with the required permits for waste disposal. Another issue is the lack of labor.