Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, is reporting a boost in the production for some 12 crops cultivated locally during 2012, and a massive reduction in imports of some of these produce.
Minister Clarke was making his presentation in the 2013/14 Sectoral debate in Parliament on Wednesday, May 8, under the theme: ‘Grow Agriculture – Grow Jamaica’.
The crops, which are seeing increased yields of between three per cent and 160 per cent, include cucumber, pak choi, pumpkin, scallion, ginger, onion, hot pepper, sweet pepper, cantaloupe, corn, Irish potato and sweet potato. These crops recorded their highest outputs for the 10 year period dating back to 2003.
The level of production ranged between just over one million kilograms, in the case of ginger and onions, to just over 52 million kilograms for pumpkin.
Consequent of the increase in domestic production there was a reduction in the quantities of several of these foods imported into Jamaica.
The Minister informed that Irish potato imports fell by 9.9 per cent; pork – 37.4 per cent; cucumber – 69 per cent; cabbage – 9.3 per cent; cantaloupe – 17.6 per cent; sweet pepper – 28 per cent; carrot – 41 per cent; and iceberg lettuce – 67 per cent, while noting a two per cent increase in tomato imports.
Minister Clarke, however, reported a two per cent increase in the country’s food import bill, which saw the figure moving from US$938 million in 2011 to US$959 million last year.
He attributed the “marginal increase” to a seven per cent increase in world food prices, as indicated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), particularly for cereals “which constitute the bulk of our imports.”
Mr. Clarke underscored the need to review the items that can be produced locally in an effort to reduce the quantity of imports.
“It’s not an easy thing to do. We have to go through and put some serious programmes in place. But also, we have to deal with our own eating habits, to deal with some of those difficulties that we face,” he stated.
Contact: Douglas McIntosh