Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Christopher Tufton, says that the Farmers’ Market, conceptualized by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to ease the glut in local agricultural produce, has been a huge success.
“The farmers are happy, the consumers seem to be happy, they are getting good prices and it augurs well for the concept,” the Minister told reporters during the Manchester leg of the markets, at the RADA office in Mandeville, on Friday February 11.
“The concept is certainly working, it is really intended to give farmers a chance to sell at wholesale prices, for the most part, what they have, and give consumers an opportunity to access less expensive and very fresh produce,” the Minister explained.
He said that the concept was designed to deal with excess capacity: Consumers get good prices on the glut items, but normal and sometimes slightly higher prices on the non-glut items.
“Together they will be better off, because they have fresh produce. In addition to that, we are encouraging consumers to consume more local foods and more local production, in keeping with the ‘eat what you grow’ theme that we are promoting,” Dr. Tufton added.
A young farmer from Coleville, Nigel Thomson, who had been suffering severe losses from his lettuce crop prior to the introduction of the markets, told JIS News that the idea has encouraged him to plant more lettuce.
“More than one thousand (heads of lettuce) mi lose from December ‘til now. Since RADA come in wid fi dem ting, three weeks, we sell more than three thousand (heads of) lettuce. It encourage you to do more farming; keep it up and mek di youth dem focus more and duh more work. Mi nuh waan give up, but if dem never come in wid dis, a give up mi would a wan give up,” he told JIS News.
Resident of Mandeville, Rochelle Rochester, was one of scores of consumers who converged on the RADA complex to access the fresh and reduced prices items on sale at the Farmers Market.
“I can’t believe that things are so cheap, I am so sorry that some of the things cannot store in the freezer, because I want to buy it. The prices are very reasonable. I am making use of it, and would like to see it at least twice a month,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RADA, Al Powel, told JIS News that they carefully choose the venues for the Farmers’ Markets. He said Portmore, for example, does not have a market and residents have to go downtown, so RADA took the market to them.
“We are mindful though, and we are thinking about when is the best time to have the markets. We want everybody – consumers, wholesalers and farmers- to live in harmony. We want to raise the standard of living for everybody,” Mr. Powel said.
The markets in St. Mary, Kingston, Clarendon, St. Catherine and Manchester were also helpful, Dr. Tufton said.