Jamaica is one of 28 countries shortlisted to receive assistance to bolster agricultural outputs so as to enhance food security over the next two years, under the European Union's (EU) €1.02 billion Food Facility programme.
The medium-term global development initiative, which is being implemented by the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is in support of the UN Millennium Development Goal #1 (MDG1),which seeks to half, the proportion of persons living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
Jamaica, like the other 27 countries shortlisted, will benefit from financial support amounting to €5.9 million (US$8 million/$688 million) to fund food security initiatives, including bolstering technology transfers and encouraging the replacement of imported staples with locally cultivated produce to stimulate economic vibrancy, particularly in rural communities. More than 5,000 local small-scale farmers are expected to benefit directly from the project.
Jamaica’s thrust to this end is being pivoted on the revamped ‘Eat Jamaican’ campaign, one of several of initiatives expected to further strengthen the Government’s efforts at safeguarding the nation’s food stock.
The initiative, to be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, FAO and EU over a three-month period, is being funded at a cost €149,000 ($17.2 million). Under the theme: ‘Eat What we Grow; Grow What We Eat’, the campaign, which runs from March 1 to May 31, will utilise a multi-faceted media approach, while expanding on existing activities. These include: radio, television and print advertisements; road shows; the production of nutritional brochures; and recipe and cooking competitions and displays.
In addition to promoting increased commercial production of produce for local consumption, the campaign will seek to encourage backyard and kitchen gardens under the theme: ‘Plant up yuh Backyard’. The Eat Jamaican campaign was launched during a ceremony at downtown Kingston’s Coronation Market last week.
Speaking at the ceremony, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, described the undertaking as an “important process” aimed at influencing the attitude and perception of Jamaicans around supporting and promoting local products and produce.
“It is an intention to support a substantial programme that, ultimately, will evolve into advancing the development of our communities and, in particular, our farmers and consumers. So today is a call to action. We are saying to the consumers of Jamaica, as we will be saying over the next number of months, travelling this country, through a series of radio and TV programmes, town hall meetings, road shows, promoting, not just local output, (or) the healthy habits that are linked to local consumption. But also saying to our local consumers, let us give a chance to our primary producers and our local foods to be viable, starting with the demand that is necessary in order to motivate our farmers to produce,” Dr. Tufton stated.
In his remarks, FAO Representative to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize,
Dr. Jerome Thomas, while noting the high level of production within the local sector, lamented that Jamaica was spending upwards of US$800 million on foreign foods, as “about half of the food eaten by us and our visitors is imported.”
“High levels of food production is good. But when farmers cannot get their products sold, that is not so good. Also, when the country spends so much foreign exchange importing foods, it means that the country is using limited foreign exchange to purchase such food that we can produce right here,” he said, while arguing the need for greater consumption of local produce.
“This is the reason why…we are launching this Eat Jamaican campaign. During this campaign, we will be promoting and encouraging Jamaicans to buy and eat more local (foods). We also want the hotels and restaurants to buy more local produce and serve more local dishes. What we want to see more of is that, when we go to the market and you see something (imported), and something produced in Jamaica, that you will buy local.
“We should remember that the more we buy and eat local, the greater will be the demand for local produce. In that way, farmers will be encouraged to produce more local fruits, vegetables and root crops as well as (rearing) increasing numbers of livestock, including goats, chickens, pigs and cattle,” the FAO Representative contended, while urging individuals to also engage in backyard and garden cultivations.
Head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, His Excellency Ambassador Marco Mazzochi-Alemanni, underscored the need for increased exportation of local produce, which he said were of a high quality.
“You must export to Europe. I am sure that you would be very successful, if you make a little effort to get into the European market. Now (that) you have the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), make use of that,” he encouraged.
Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) President, Glendon Harris, said the organisation welcomes and commends the efforts of the Ministry, the EU, and the FAO to strengthen the nation’s food security and to encourage greater consumption of local produce.
We, therefore, encourage other government organisations, individuals, householders, youths, and consumers to recognise, to support, and to have a greater appreciation for the range, and the quality of the Jamaican agricultural produce and our products,” Mr. Harris implored.
CONTACT: DOUGLAS McINTOSH