KINGSTON — The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is putting resources and infrastructure in place for the production of rice and pepper mash, as it looks to promote the consumption of local foods and further reduce the country’s import bill.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank held on April 12 at the agency’s Half-Way-Tree Road offices, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry said that Jamaicans consume about 100,000 tonnes of rice annually and “we believe that we have the capabilities in Jamaica to supply at least 25 per cent of this rice."
He noted that already, some 4,000 hectares of land have been identified and “we are now putting these lands into private hands and have made special financial arrangements with a commercial bank under the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to provide funding."
Mr. Stanberry said that rice mills and other critical equipment such as rice and combined harvesters have been imported and procured and a major manufacturer of fertilizer has also come on board.
“We have lined up the entire value chain for the project to be launched soon and within two to three years, we would have gotten to that target where we are producing 25 per cent of our rice,” he informed.
In terms of pepper, he pointed out that some 16 pepper nurseries have been installed aimed at minimising the country’s dependence on other countries to supply the pepper mash for the production of hot pepper sauce.
“We have installed capacity in terms of pepper nurseries to ensure that we have adequate amount of planted material, we have mobilised farmers and will be breaking ground shortly to build a brand new pepper mash processing facility in St. Elizabeth that will be leased to Grace Kennedy Limited,” the Permanent Secretary informed.
Mr. Stanberry noted that these two projects are efforts by the Ministry to “combine policy and critical interventions by the government to ensure that we are producing what we need to consume here without putting the consumer at a disadvantage. We are promoting crops that are competitive so the consumer does not have to pay more than they are paying for imports,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Stanberry has lauded the efforts of the Ministry, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other key agencies for the staging of the farmers’ markets, the backyard gardening programme, and the recently launched, Eat Jamaican campaign, which are all initiatives to promote the supply and consumption of more locally produced foods.
“What we are trying to do is two-fold…on the supply side, we want to increase the production of locally grown food and on the demand side, we are encouraging Jamaicans to eat more locally produced food not only to support our farmers but to ensure that we have a healthy nation,” Mr. Stanberry said.
He further informed that currently, the Ministry is working at restructuring the agricultural sector by putting in the requisite infrastructure, bolstering its research and development capabilities, extension services, food safety and post harvest handling infrastructures to better facilitate its programmes and projects.
By KADIAN BROWN, JIS PR Officer