Productivity levels among the Caribbean's farmers are expected to be significantly boosted with the implementation of a $20 million Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded project, dubbed the: ‘Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages' (PROPEL).
The five-year project aims to position some 28,000 small farmers in over eight Caribbean nations, including Jamaica, to provide an adequate and consistent supply of agricultural products to large purchasers, such as hotels and airlines within the region, by enhancing their capacity.
Benefits which are expected to accrue to beneficiary stakeholders include: the building of a more integrated regional economy; fostering economic growth; and increased incomes to farmers.
Implementation of PROPEL is being spearheaded by the non-government organisation, Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF), which has provided a contribution of $1 million. The CHF, which has been operating in the Caribbean for over 18 years, has successfully demonstrated its ability to develop the capacity of producer groups and institutions through a range of projects.
Development Officer for CIDA, Sekeywi Carruthers, tells JIS News that the project, the office for which will be based in Barbados, will be rolled out on a phased basis within the eight countries targeted for initial implementation over the next two to three years. In addition to Jamaica, there will be Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The rationale for implementing the project arose out of what is deemed a “serious disconnect” between local farmers and large purchasers regarding the provision of adequate supplies of agricultural products of the highest quality, and food safety standards, which is not currently being met by the farmers.
Industry data indicate that the market for fresh fruits and vegetables within the Caribbean currently ranges between $50 and $100 million per annum. However, based on the data, this is not currently being adequately met by the farmers, which has forced purchasers to import as much as 90 per cent of these supplies from outside of the Caribbean. Information emerging from across the Caribbean suggests that regional purchasers have expressed a preference for procuring products from local farmers, once quality, quantity, and food safety requirements can be met.
This, according to CIDA, is based on the view that local procurement guarantees freshness and usage of flavours indigenous to the Caribbean, and would also be cost-effective. Further, that those buyers will be supporting the project by providing advice from the buyers’ perspective and by purchasing fresh produce from farmers’ groups supported by the project.
Parallel to this, small producers, including members of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), one of the project’s local partner organisations, will be supported to supply larger quantities of products, and ensure that higher quality and food safety standards are met. This is intended to create a win-win situation, with farmers receiving more for their products, while lowering transaction costs for the buyers.
Pivotal to this is the establishment of a Caribbean Produce Marketing Corporation (CPMC), which will serve as a broker between the farmers and buyers, facilitating contractual arrangements for orders. The offices of the CPMC will be based in Barbados, and it is anticipated that over the ensuing years of the project’s implementation, the capacity of farmers groups from other Caribbean countries will be strengthened, enabling their integration into the supply chain, based on market needs and competitive advantage.
It is intended that PROPEL’s implementation will increase the engagement of male and female small farmers and young people in the Caribbean in high value fresh produce market activities; and increase co-ordination and alignment of farmers and buyers in high value fresh produce markets of the Caribbean.
Further, that the number of persons employed in the agricultural sector across the region will increase by approximately 70,000, and reach approximately 400,000 indirect beneficiaries; the revenues of farmers will increase, consequent on an annual average increase of an estimated 25 per cent in the total value of fresh produce; increase in food safety; and a reduction in youth unemployment, which currently stands at 23 per cent, by supporting young entrepreneurs in starting their own farms and agri-business.
Design and development of the project are currently being finalised, and it is anticipated that it will be implemented later this year. It is also expected that at the end of the project’s five-year implementation period, linkages between farmers and purchasers would have been established and strengthened, thereby facilitating the accrual of significant benefits to all stakeholders.
The PROPEL project has been welcomed by Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) President, Senator Norman Grant, who endorsed it while addressing the recent Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon.
Noting that there is currently, not enough inter-regional trade being conducted, particularly among CARICOM countries, Senator Grant pointed to the need for stakeholders to move to address this anomaly in order that, “the revenues that are generated are shared by (the) farmers within CARICOM,” while stressing that “we need to find a way to make that (project) work."
For further Information on the PROPEL Project, persons can contact: Sekeywi Carruthers, Development Officer, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), High Commission of Canada, 3 West King’s House Road, Kingston 10 or call 733-3454. Persons can also e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.