Influencing Rural Economy Strategies

In agriculture, the unexpected can have disastrous consequences, particularly where disease is involved. Crop yields can be decimated if there is no available pesticide treatment, and often the only solution is to look for alternative crops.

At NNFCC we have in-house expertise on non-food crops, and so when we were approached by Jersey’s Department of the Environment to help find alternative crops to grow alongside Jersey Royal potatoes affected by Potato Cyst Nematodes (PCN) in order to extend the crop rotation and reduce reliance on chemical controls, we were well equipped for the task. The emphasis was on low volume, high value crops, due to limited land areas being available and high export costs associated with bulk export from the island; also because the top crop priority continues to be potatoes so we needed to find something that was equally attractive for the traditional potato growers.

In the first instance, NNFCC looked exclusively at non-food crops, analysing in depth how they would create value for Jersey’s economy. Many factors were considered, including the suitability of the growing conditions on Jersey, the land area required to supplement the lost value of the infected potatoes, the potential changes to the  farming process in order to account for the different crops, as well as the possible market value of each crop to Jersey’s economy. Many kinds of crops were considered, including medicinal herbs, pharmaceutical crops, oil crops and algae. 

Through refining down the opportunities and exploring their value potential, the eventual choice of speciality oil crops was accompanied by a proposed development of an entire value chain on the island of Jersey, thus generating more value for Jersey’s economy. 

By retaining processing, manufacture and distribution steps on island a range of high-value cosmetics and healthcare products could be established, which would appeal not only to the tourists visiting Jersey but if exported to mainland UK may serve to encourage more people to visit. This value chain proposal has since been incorporated into Jersey’s 2017 Rural Economy Strategy, encouraging local farmers to partake in it. 

A second, follow-up investigation involved possible alternative food crops, including “superfoods” such as honeyberries and quinoa, but also herbs and hemp. Shortly after presenting the findings of this second phase to Jersey’s Annual Farming Conference, a decision was made to grow tea on the island, and NNFCC were able to facilitate the partnership between Jersey and the Scottish Tea Growers’ Association, that has resulted in the first tea plantations set for planting on Jersey later in 2017.

This demonstrates NNFCC’s ability to provide robust market and policy recommendations that can positively effect local and national authorities.