The Jamaica Agricultural Society’s (JAS) ‘Eat Jamaican Campaign’ has received further strengthening with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SuperClubs, which will see the local hotel chain buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the Society’s commercial enterprise limited.
In announcing the terms of this partnership that is expected to stimulate production and international competitiveness, JAS President, Senator Norman Grant said that both organizations would collaborate in the design and development of technical assistance programmes for farmers.
SuperClubs and the JAS are also expected to work on providing guidelines on policy initiatives relevant to the agricultural sector with representatives of both organizations meeting regularly to share information and strengthen their relationship, stated Senator Grant.
“This alliance,” said Mr. Grant, “is a total endorsement by SuperClubs of the Eat Jamaican Campaign launched by the JAS in November 2003”.
In order to ensure consistent quality, the JAS President disclosed that a seal of approval would be issued to farmers and producers who maintained high standards. The seal is being developed in tandem with the Bureau of Standards.
While urging consumers to support the local industry, the JAS President gave the assurance that farmers would strive to match quality with reliability. He said over time, this should help to address the issue of pricing.
This signing took place at a JAS board meeting on February 4, at Medallion Hall Hotel, Hope Road.
Participating in the MOU signing, Sam James, SuperClubs’ Vice President for Operations noted that the alliance was evidence of the faith that the resorts had in the quality of Jamaican produced foods, indicating that SuperClubs bought more than J$110 million worth of fruits and vegetables annually.
“The local agricultural sector plays a pivotal role in the delivery of a quality tourism product by ensuring it delivers the best Jamaican grown food,” said Mr. James.
He said that based on the current data, agriculture was one of the growth sectors in Jamaica and “we are committed to assisting this growth by continuing to buy Jamaican agricultural products and by promoting the Eat Jamaican campaign in our resorts.” He appealed to his colleagues to participate in the Eat Jamaican campaign.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke hailed the MOU as one that would greatly benefit farmers, noting that currently the hotel and tourism industry bought some $2 billion worth of produce from farmers annually.
Mr. Clarke observed that this alliance would protect the sector against expensive imports when there were shortages locally. He called on stakeholders to assist agriculturalists with technical assistance to improve technology and efficiency.
He also appealed for local produce to be presented in an attractive manner as tourists also visit the island to sample our world famous exotic fruits and vegetables.
Touching on the anti-praedial larceny legislation, Minister Clarke said that any further changes would be made in Parliament and these would relate to receipt book implementation. Once the legislation is passed, farmers will issue receipts to purchasers. The JAS will supply the receipt books.
Regarding the request by hoteliers for a temporary duty waiver on imported beef, Mr. Clarke indicated that the Ministry would grant the waiver on the excess imports to cover demands above what the nation’s beef farmers could provide.
The Society’s commercial enterprise limited is expected to come on stream by the end of the year and will comprise a pilot marketing system that will involve Manchester, St. Elizabeth, Trelawny and Westmoreland.
In this venture, the JAS has secured 636.36 square metres of factory space in southern St. Elizabeth, Senator Grant disclosed. This is where farmers’ produce will be washed and packaged into refrigerated trucks for delivery to the hotels.