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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the approach to Jamaica’s food security programme and creation of food stability for the nation, will be holistic.
“We intend to influence consumer preference for locally produced foods in parallel with building capacity in food production, encouraging investment while focussing on research and other related sectors,” he said, while addressing a stakeholder meeting on September 23, to prepare for the official launch of the National Food Security Programme.
“There is no reason why we should not be able to produce enough protein and staples to feed ourselves,” he argued.
Meeting with the Minister, were representatives from several sectors, considered necessary for the successful implementation and sustainability of the programme. These included representatives from tourism, investment, agriculture, education and training, finance, cultural development, marketing and export, and the public sector.
Minister Tufton said an Advisory Board was already established to define research and training agendas and focus on crop selection. The Board looked at production levels for 10 critical crops, and is now setting targets to increase production. The crops include carrots, ginger, cassava, and yam.
Discussions with the Jamaica Flour Mills, he revealed, have indicated that it is possible to mix 50 per cent cassava flour with 50 per cent wheat flour to produce a viable product.
“Yields of between 12 and 20 tonnes per acre are possible from cassava plantations, if the right variety is planted,” he said, adding, “the ideal arrangement would be a mother farm with satellite farms to include small farmers.”
Technical support, he explained, had been beefed up with the strengthening of the marketing arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, which will be looking at data to assess and quantify production and reaping patterns to influence trade policy. Agricultural economists were also in place to develop a centre of excellence for agriculture, focussing on research at various stages of production as well as commodities.
Outlining the other elements of the food security approach, the Minister said that curriculum development from primary to tertiary levels as well as vocational training, are also being examined to restore pride in agriculture and increase interest in agricultural related careers among the younger generation.
Farm gate and marketing prices would also be factored in, he added, pointing out that this would be done in relation to the viability of farming as a lucrative investment for growers as well as other players. “We need to move away from subsistence agriculture, to take it to wealth creation levels in order to attract investments,” Minister Tufton said.
Between 30 and 40 greenhouses are to be built over the next year across the island, and model frames are also to be established with traditional crops.
A major challenge, the Minister noted, would be influencing consumer preference to eat and purchase local products. But this would be done through a sustained public awareness campaign, in conjunction with shelf branding for easy differentiation between local and imported products.
The Minister made an appeal to sector representatives to join the effort to drive greater preference for local production, boost production and investment, and hoteliers in particular, to differentiate local products to make it a part of that sought after authentic Jamaican vacation experience, as without broad support and a holistic approach, the programme could not be sustained.