The ability of the agricultural sector to effectively compete will be greatly enhanced this fiscal year, with an allocation of $289 million to the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme.
As contained in the 2012/13 Estimates of Expenditure, now before the House of Representatives, the allocation will provide for the undertaking of research in export practices/constraints for non-traditional products in the United States, Canada and European markets.
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Studies will also be conducted to determine the feasibility of establishing an export agency in Miami and to examine domestic market opportunities, capacity building and market linkages, while support will be provided to existing marketing information system. Increased market access will also be provided for non-traditional crops and livestock.
It is also expected that, under the project, assistance will be provided to group producer organisations into clusters; support for training in agri-business and marketing for extension staff; agricultural health and food safety will be integrated; and the capacity of institutions to prevent and control food-borne diseases will be strengthened.
Formerly known as the Rural Competitiveness Programme, the project, launched in November 2010, seeks to facilitate access to markets by small and medium farmers; ensure the production of safe and good quality agricultural products; and stimulate public-private investment in agri-business value chain development.
It is being implemented by the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Physical achievements up to February 2012 include the setting up of a Project Implementation Unit and hiring of staff; preparation of implementation and procurement plans for 2012/13; and approval of a Food Safety Policy by Cabinet.
The project is expected to conclude in November 2015.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter