The Ministry of Agriculture has started a comprehensive reorganisation of its marketing services, to assist farmers in addressing problems with sourcing markets for their produce.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Donovan Stanberry, told journalists at a media briefing on Tuesday (March 31), at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road offices, Kingston, that a team has been appointed to undertake significantly enhanced activities, which were previously carried out by the Ministry’s marketing and credit division.
He said that the thrust is in keeping with the restructuring programme, which was approved by the Cabinet last year. At the heart of the programme is the goal of overhauling the services provided for the farmers, including extension services, marketing and business facilitation.
Ministry of Agriculture members of staff listen as University of the West Indies (UWI) Lecturer, Dr. Derrick Deslandes, explains aspects of a marketing programme, which he and members of the Ministry’s Marketing Unit have developed to address the challenges faced by farmers in the sale of their produce, following a media briefing at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road offices, in St. Andrew, on March31, to announce the undertaking.
The four-man team includes University of the West Indies(UWI) lecturer in Management Studies, Dr. Derrick Deslandes, who is working part-time on the programme, and who provided a synopsis during the briefing.
Dr. Deslandes said that the team collects data on prices at all levels of the market chain, including farm gate, municipal, retail, and wholesale prices. He pointed out that efforts are being made to determine the nature of the pricing arrangements between the different levels in the trade.
He said that this is so, because the persons who put in the work and produce are not getting the rewards, because they have to sell the produce below the cost of production.
Dr. Deslandes said measures have either been put in place, or are being pursued to address this problem, including: the creation of producer market organisations; establishment of packaging centres; and, efforts to rectify post harvest losses.
“By our estimates, post harvest losses, range between 20 and 50 per cent, depending on the type of produce. Put another way, for every pound of produce that the farmer generates, he could lose half of it by the time it gets to the market,” he said.
Dr. Deslandes said that, currently, pricing data is rolled out on a weekly basis to sector stakeholders, but that efforts are being made to provide “real time information” on a daily basis. He warned, however, that this will require further development of a wholesale and centralised marketing system.
The team also engages in market forecasting, with the assistance of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) marketing officers in each parish. This will involve monthly projections being made on the likely availability of specific crops, on a quarterly basis.
Other initiatives which have been undertaken, include the production of a weekly e-newsletter, and establishment of a toll free telephone line – 1888-4295-RADA.
Activities being pursued, Dr. Deslandes added, include the mounting of price boards at designated points, and the commencement of an SMS text messaging facility to provide farmers with information impacting on their undertakings.