KINGSTON — Effective January 1, 2012, agri-processors requesting waivers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, must get their applications certified by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
The move, portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Montague explained, is to ensure that the processors are not indebted to farmers or other suppliers, outside of their regular credit arrangements.
Speaking at a food safety workshop for food industry regulatory agencies and stakeholders at the Mona Visitors' Lodge, University of the West Indies (UWI),
St. Andrew, last week, Mr. Montague lamented instances of protracted delays that farmers and other suppliers experience in receiving payments due to them by processors.
“Why is it that these establishments, sometimes, owe farmers for three, four, five, six months? Why is it that the farmers are being asked to finance the operations of these establishments? It is not fair. You may have a 30-day credit arrangement with the farmer, or two months. But whatever (it) is…, RADA should certify (that you are not indebted)…and I am simply saying that, if you are applying for waiver…don’t owe the farmer,” he stated.
The Minister further invited processors seeking waivers to submit business plans outlining how they can contribute to expanding the domestic market.
While acknowledging that not everything can be produced in Jamaica, the Minister cited the need to ensure that there are accruable benefits to all stakeholders.
“We are aware that we will never be able to produce enough beef trimmings to make all the patties that Tastee would want to make. But it is also my view that if you are going to apply for beef trimmings or top cut meats and sirloin and all these fancy cuts that we can’t produce here, you should either come to the table with a business plan to say what it is that you are doing to prevent us from importing, or (how) you are going to allow us, as a country, to buy the items that we cannot produce."
Minister Montague also appealed to processors and other stakeholders to only purchase from farmers registered with RADA. This, he explained, is to ensure that products are being procured from legitimate sources.
“If you’re not registered with RADA, we’re not sure if you are a farmer…you’re (merely) parading as a farmer. You’re (probably) coming to sell an item that, may be, you did not grow. But if you are registered with RADA, at least when you are doing your planning, you can be assured (what) you are getting, is correct, and the whole matter of traceability…is assured,” Mr. Montague stated.
The two-day workshop was hosted by the Ministry’s Veterinary Services Division under the theme: ‘The Role of Veterinary Services in Food Safety –The Way Forward’.
More than 20 participants in the food industry attended the forum, which facilitated interactive discussions involving the Division, other regulatory agencies, and sector stakeholders engaged in providing safe animal products.
The forum was aimed at increasing awareness of the role and functionality of veterinary services in food safety, based on international standards, as well as to examine options in achieving required food safety standards.
By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter