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KINGSTON — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton has signalled the Ministry's intention to stage Farmers' Market once per month, as part of the overall thrust to increase and support domestic crop production.

He assured that in promoting  the Farmers’ Market, the Ministry is not seeking to replace or compete with traditional markets. “However, we do feel that there is a role for the farmers’ market; in fact, we are reviewing the possibility of a monthly farmers’ market, so that it will become not a response to a glut, as it had started out initially, but will become a part of the structure of marketing agricultural produce,” the Minister said.

“Our position is that a once per month farmers’ market will seek  to improve and increase more local consumption, than to replace existing consumption,” Dr. Tufton added.

The Minister was speaking at a press conference on domestic food crop production for the January to March quarter, at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens headquarters, in Kingston, yesterday.

Dr. Tufton noted that these markets will be “packaged and programmed” and hosted on days when they will not compete directly with traditional markets.

However, he said it is in the interest of the sector to introduce more options, and by extension, more competition in the marketplace.

“The truth is, we have examined the data, comparing farm gate prices with the retail price, and we were disturbed when we looked at the numbers. In some instances, the difference between the farm gate price and the retail price was as high as 500 per cent. When we look at other efficiently functioning markets throughout the world, the difference in margin between the farmer and the retailer should not exceed 150 per cent maximum,” the Minister said.

He argued that these high retail prices suggest that either the post-harvest process is highly inefficient, or that there is price gouging on the market.

“Introducing an alternative option to the market, on a limited scale, is going to encourage all the stakeholders to attempt to improve efficiency. The consumers are going to benefit, and over time, all concerned, including the higglers and the traditional markets, will benefit, because we will develop a more efficient marketplace,” Dr. Tufton asserted.

He explained that  the farmers’ market brings fresh produce to the marketplace; provides interaction between the farmers and consumers; gives consumers lower prices; and encourages increased consumption.

“We have to adjust our approach to drive efficiencies, and the farmers’ market  is going to help in that respect,” Dr. Tufton said.

The signal to stage the monthly markets  follows the success of the recent five sets of farmers’ markets, which were held across the country. Some 400 farmers sold two million pounds  of  produce, valuing $106 million, to some 120,000 consumers.
                                                                         

By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter