Agriculture Ministry Calls on Organic Farmers to get Certified


The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, through the National Organic Agriculture Enhancement Project (NOAEP), is calling on farmers who are practising organic farming and those who are interested in this method, to become certified.
This call is in collaboration with the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement (JOAM).
The NOAEP and JOAM are the local accredited organizations, along with foreign organizations from the European Union and the United States, which issue certification to farmers engaged in organic agriculture.
Speaking with JIS News, Principal Research Director at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine, Dr. Joseph Lindsay said that, “organic certification means that you are given a mark and a certificate stating that your product or service has been done according to guidelines and standards set for organic farming by a world market”.
In organic farming, chemical agents are not used. The produce is treated with chemical pesticides or genetically modified, and livestock must be reared in animal-friendly conditions.
“Organic farming demands integrity, it is technical and it is not the everyday subsistence farming,” Dr. Lindsay explained. He added that labels with organic certification must state that the product or farm was audited and met the requirements.
He pointed out that six local farms have been certified ‘organic’ by a German company, which means that the farms can now export products to Germany and the United States.
Supermarkets in Germany stock nearly 30,000 organic products, and in 2004, some 3.5 billion euros were spent on organic foods in that country.
Certificates are issued by the Kingston based JOAM, but before this is done, inspectors travel to the various parishes to review the products and farms. Inspection is preferably done when the crop is in the field, but may also be done during harvesting in storage. Records are also closely examined.
“If a farmer wants to be certified and he believes he has been producing organically, he is to contact a certification body such as NOAEP or JOAM and fill out the application form,” Dr. Lindsay explained. The agency will then contact the farmer and conduct a survey. The certificate may be renewed annually.
Dr. Lindsay is encouraging farmers to become certified for reasons of international trade. He pointed out that the organic label was an assurance given to the consumer that the product met organic standards. “In the world market the organic goods are given premium prices, they command five times to 20 times more, the price given to the non-organic products,” he noted.
Currently, the NOAEP is processing 40 applications from persons who wish to be certified.
The NOAEP project conducts regular surveys and helps farmers meet the organic criteria. Under the project, a training workshop for farmers is now underway and will be completed in December 2006.
This programme seeks to increase organic production as well as the number of organic farms by 2008. The NOAEP project has received $20 million from the government, of which $5 million is for certification. The project will end in March 2008.
Crops which are identified for certification include, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, because of the immense demand for them. Beverage crops such as coffee and cocoa are also in demand on the international market. Organic sugar, livestock, milk, free range chickens, eggs and grass-fed beef cattle are also fuelling interest.

JIS Social