State Minister for Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, says the Government is committed to supporting farmers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and safeguard the country’s food security.
He noted that among the initiatives implemented was a $240 million stimulus package to purchase excess fruits and vegetables from those farmers, who lost their markets, largely due to the closure of hotels as a result of the pandemic.
“We bought from the farmers and redistributed through channels such as children’s homes, communities that were on lockdown and established mobile farmers’ markets,” Mr. Green said.
“There was significant demand and the access is what caused the breakdown in the supply chain so we had to help farmers to get through this period and also still be able to plant,” he noted.
The Agriculture State Minister was addressing the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council’s bi-weekly series ‘ COVID Chat’ recently, on the topic: ‘When Hunger Strikes – Food Security and Sustainability during COVID-19.’
He said that since the onset of the pandemic, the Ministry has distributed over five million pounds of produce, benefitting more than 1000 farmers across 12 parishes.
Mr. Green cited the additional $1billion that has been allocated to the Ministry’s Productivity Incentive Programme (PIP) for this financial year, to assist small farmers, as further indication of the Government’s intent to strengthen the country’s food network.
“As the excess becomes no more, we need to transition into security and sustainability. We recognise that we need resources to ensure that farmers continue to plant but also to deal with logistics issues such as storage capacity, getting more refrigerated trucks and also engaging in private-public partnerships with cooperatives as a part of the long-term response,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Mr. Green said the Ministry wants to see more entrepreneurs getting involved in the delivery of fresh produce.
“We saw how many new companies came about to deal with the logistics to get the fresh produce into the homes of Jamaicans and we want to see the emergence of more businesses to tackle the issues in logistics,” he said.
He noted that the emergence of the mobile markets has also provided another opportunity for farmers to sell their produce.
“It gave us the opportunity to provide produce at an affordable price and it says to the farmers ‘if you can increase the production and keep the prices affordable then there is this new market’,” he said.