Agricultural Strategies must be Underpinned by Efficient Production Systems


Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Don McGlashan has stressed that strategies being advocated to transform and reposition the agricultural sector must be underpinned by knowledge-based, efficient production systems on the ground.
He noted that if this was not done, the strategies would prove to be useless in advancing the sector as an engine of economic growth and mechanism for ensuring food security.
Mr. McGlashan was addressing a sensitization workshop on agricultural forecasting database systems, which was hosted today (January 20) by the Ministry’s Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project (EJASP), at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston. “In order to be efficient, production must be market driven and this can only be achieved if the appropriate information systems are in place to link demand to supply,” he told the gathering of agricultural and trade interest groups.
He pointed out that against the background of the removal of preferential tariffs in the global environment, along with the coming on stream of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), regional agricultural sectors were pressed to become efficient and competitive in order to survive.
Mr. McGlashan said the Ministry welcomed the collaborative initiative of the Caribbean Agribusiness Marketing Intelligence Development (CAMID) Network, the work of which would complement the Agricultural Business Information System (ABIS), managed by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
The Chief Technical Director explained that the CAMID Network had developed a networking system, aimed at optimizing agricultural marketing operations at the national, regional, and extra regional levels, and that it would offer services such as marketing intelligence, including product supply and demand forecasting and trade facilitation, all of which would provide greater access to agri-business information for buyers and sellers.
Meanwhile, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative, Gladston Barrett said food security was among one of the most important subject matters contained in the FAO’s regular programme and its field programme. “Particularly among developing member states, the FAO is constantly seeking out new strategies and approaches toward achieving food security at the household level, community level and at the national level,” he added.
Mr. Barrett informed that in 2001 CARIFORUM, in association with the European Union under the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries umbrella, requested the FAO’s assistance to prepare a regional special programme for food security.
In response, the FAO developed a fully comprehensive programme which included two components. The first seeks to strengthen policy, training, planning and services capacity in the different regional, national and community institutions and organisations working to promote food security at the regional level. The second component deals with the improvement of production and marketing systems accessible to small farmers in food-insecure communities.
In the 1980s, the structural adjustment programme led to the scaling down or closing down of large government monopolies that dealt with marketing, paving the way for greater participation of private sector organisations in the business of marketing and related activities. It was in response to this development, Mr. Barrett said, that the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), along with other regional and international partners, held a series of consultations that resulted in the CAMID Network.
The workshop explored the advantages and functions of ABIS, which will be used to track and project produce and livestock nationally, and the Product Forecasting Database Systems (PSFS) for the CAMID Network. CAMID was developed and activated by CARDI in May 2001 to support the marketing development programme of the Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture in the CARICOM region. The Programme, which is funded by the FAO in the sum of US$395,000, involves the development of two databases, which include the PSFS.
A prototype version of ABIS should be ready by the end of January and the operational version by March, at which time full funding for the system should be available, Deputy Executive Director of RADA, Thomas Burton noted.
The ABIS and the Product Forecasting Database Systems (PFDS) for the CAMID Network, will be operated simultaneously, with CAMID providing regional crop information, while ABIS will give crop information at the national level.
In addition to information on crop projections, farmers will be able, with ABIS and PFDS, to access actual and historical data. Information that will be made available include the number of farmers producing particular crops, broken down by region or district; projected output for given periods; quantity of crop under cultivation; and which farmer has what crops. Group queries pertaining to a particular sub-set of farmers can also be done.
The ABIS pilot project will focus on a 13 crops, measuring 150 farmers. The crops include sweet peppers, broccoli, squash, cauliflower, red cabbage, hot pepper, pumpkin, callaloo, carrots, cantaloupe, okra, sorrel and sweet potato.

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