The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be pursuing initiatives aimed at enhancing Jamaica’s food security and reducing the country’s annual food import bill of US$1 billion.
“We have decided we are going to put a serious dent in that,” emphasised portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, as he spoke at the launch of the Jamaica 4-H Club’s National Achievement Expo 2013, held at the Medallion Hall Hotel on April 16.
He identified some of the imported items as: wheat flour, corn, animal feed, rice and some fish products, pointing out that “those things take a big chunk out of our import bill.”
“But, there are other things which we ought not to import. How can one justify the importation of drinking water into Jamaica? Why should we import jack fruit?” Mr. Clarke questioned.
He said that the establishment of the eight Agro Parks will make a significant contribution to agricultural development, while moving towards food security.
“In these Agro Parks, the government will be working towards putting in basic infrastructure, such as irrigation, drainage, storage, and packing house facilities. We will be concentrating extension officers in those specific areas to deal with production, so that the farmers can have a continuous linkage with their extension officers,” Mr. Clarke stated.
Over the next three years, some US$8 million will be invested to develop the parks in six parishes, including St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth and Trelawny.
Focus will be placed on the production of onions, Irish potato, yam, honey, small ruminants, hot pepper, ginger, turmeric, pineapple, and on aquaculture.
In addition, Mr. Clarke noted that the Ministry will seek to put in place a proper marketing strategy for the agricultural sector.
“We are even looking at an exchange, somewhat like the stock exchange, to deal with how we market our farm produce,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clarke said he was looking forward to the Jamaica 4-H Club’s National Achievement Expo, which will be held on April 26 at the Denbigh Show Grounds, Clarendon.
The expo will be held under the theme: ‘Youth Involvement in Agriculture for Food Security and Economic Development’. It is the culmination of 14 parish achievement expos which were held between the end of February and early April.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Lenworth Fulton, said some 350 participants from several schools and community clubs across the island will compete in this year’s 4-H Clubs National Achievement Expo.
They will participate in approximately 25 competitive events in the areas of agriculture, home economics, leadership skills, social skills, healthy lifestyle and environmental awareness. The premier feature will be the selection of the National 4-H Boy and Girl of the Year.
Special attractions will include: healthy lifestyle village; educational project work and agency displays; special food feature (red peas); Agri Technology Park; school Agri technology competition; 4-H cook off; rides and face painting; and 4-H cubbies village.
The event will also be used to promote the consumption of rabbit meat as an alternative source of protein.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter