JIS News

Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, is calling for increased production by the country’s farmers, and a reduction in the quantity of food imported annually. .
Addressing a service at the Mandeville Parish Church in Manchester on Sunday (Oct. 12), marking World Food Day, Dr. Tufton said the cost of Jamaica’s food imports increased from US$479M in 2002, to US$662M in November 2007, highlighting the challenges this posed for countries like Jamaica.
“The combination of high food prices, high fuel, and high fertiliser costs, pose a clear danger to our country’s food security; and as a net importer of food, we are particularly challenged. Over the past five years, data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), show a steady increase in our food bill. If we examine the composition of our food basket, which is used by STATIN to compute inflation, the picture becomes more worrying,” he stated.
Dr. Tufton advised that his ministry has been promoting the need for increased agricultural output, noting that this thrust will assist in countering the global challenges associated with the availability of and stability in the price of food, to which vulnerable economies are susceptible.
“Urgent action is needed on two fronts. making food accessible to the most vulnerable, and helping small producers raise their output, so that they can earn more. In this regard, we have been implementing several strategies to stimulate local production. These include: promoting green house clusters, which are able to significantly increase production of selected fruits and vegetables; providing incentives to farmers to produce staples, including Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, and rice,” the Minister outlined.
He added that the Ministry has been instrumental in securing low interest loans for dairy farmers; increasing the number of extension officers to provide advanced technical information to farmers; adopting modern techniques and equipment; and promoting backyard and school garden programmes, in keeping with the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO), initiatives to boost food production in the short term.