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  • Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, has commended the 230,000 farmers across Jamaica for their “sustained” contribution to the growth of the economy.
  • Mr. Kellier said the agricultural sector continues to play a pivotal role in the employment of the country’s workforce and the “visible” reduction of Jamaica’s large food import bill.
  • The Minister was speaking at the 32nd staging of the Montpelier Agricultural Show in St. James, on April 6.

Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, has commended the 230,000 farmers across Jamaica for their “sustained” contribution to the growth of the economy.

Mr. Kellier said the agricultural sector continues to play a pivotal role in the employment of the country’s workforce and the “visible” reduction of Jamaica’s large food import bill.

The Minister was speaking at the 32nd staging of the Montpelier Agricultural Show in St. James, on April 6.

“On behalf of the Jamaican people, I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to the farmers of St. James and by extension, all our 230,000 farmers across the island, for their contribution, even in the face of very challenging circumstances, including the drought last year,” Mr. Kellier said.

He also commended the organizers of the show, including the President and staff of the St. James Association of Branch Societies and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), as well as the various sponsors and exhibitors.

The Minister said that the high quality of items on display at the show is testament to farmers’ commitment and hard work to the agricultural sector and to ensuring the nation’s food security.

Noting that the Government had made the right choice to launch a deliberate policy to increase the country’s food security in 2012 with the ‘Grow what we eat, Eat what we grow’ campaign, Mr. Kellier informed that the country achieved 90 per cent sufficiency in Irish potato in 2014 and is now targeting onions.

“Our flagship initiative to increase our production and productivity has been the establishment of agro-parks across the island. Through these agro-parks we are engaging the best expertise, agronomic practices and the provision of infrastructure. To date we have successfully established nine of these parks with a total of 1,546 hectares of land, 754 hectares of which are in production. Over 1.75 million kilograms of produce have been reaped and 1,428 persons have been employed,” he informed.

The Minister further noted that through these agro-parks, Jamaica’s food import bill for last year had been “drastically reduced.

“Between January and October 2014, our food import bill fell by US$34.2 million or 4.2 per cent to US$773.1 million, down from US$807.3 million recorded in the same period in 2013,” he noted.

“We are continuing to attract new participants in our agro-parks and we are also engaging our research and development division to assist in the development and provision of the best varieties of both plant and livestock to increase productivity levels,” the Minister added.

Mr. Kellier pointed out that there is a great demand for Jamaican fresh produce in North America and Britain and that Jamaica is on the verge of making a breakthrough into the regional CARICOM market for produce such as peppers, dasheens, mangoes and bananas.