The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, is increasing its appeal for Jamaicans to support the country’s farmers through the consumption of more local produce.
During a tour of farming communities in St. James yesterday (Oct.11), State Minister in the Ministry, Hon. Ian Hayles, also called on importers to be patriotic and buy local where it is available.
“It cannot be business as usual going forward. We have to find a way in cutting the trade deficit to feed our own people and at the same time, create an environment where we can grow the economy,” he stated.
Mr. Hayles said that from the Ministry’s perspective, there is a strategic push to increase production for both local consumption and the export market, while at the same time, cutting the level of imported goods.
He informed that efforts are being made to create greater synergy between agriculture and tourism, noting that a joint committee has been set up to meet with all stakeholders involved, to see how best local farmers can meet needs in the tourism sector.
Arguing that agriculture is the way forward for Jamaica, Mr. Hayles said the sector can provide the solution to a number of the country’s economic and social challenges.
He said that “one of the things we have to do in the Ministry of Agriculture is to create more avenues where we can create more access to capital, where other young people from other disciplines can come in and they can play a role.”
Citing the agro-parks soon to come on stream, he said that the facilities will allow for the entry of young professionals into the sector, which should help in enhancing production.
The agro-parks, announced by portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke in Parliament last month, represent a pragmatic approach to enhancing food security and cutting the country’s food import bill.
Some US$8 million will be invested in the development of eight facilities over the next three years in six parishes across the island. These are: 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 aquaculture.
The St. James tour formed part of a series of farm visits to several parishes to get a first- hand look at damage caused by the recent heavy rains across the island. The damage is estimated at $72 million, with losses of crops and livestock.
During Thursday’s tour, the Agriculture State Minister met with a number of successful farmers in St. James.