JIS News

Jamaicans will have to consume more locally produced food in order to minimise imports and cushion the effects of the global financial crisis.
This was the word from Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, as he delivered the keynote address at the Atlanta Jamaica Association’s building and scholarship banquet held on May 30 at Angora Hill, Georgia, U.S.A.
“One of the opportunities that emerges out of this crisis, is for us to reflect on what we want as a country, where we need to go and to make some decisions to shift focus in order to minimise our vulnerabilities and to cushion some of the external shock that has been challenging us for the last year,” he stated.
He informed that 60 per cent of the food consumed in Jamaica was imported, with more that US$850,000 worth of food coming into the island last year. He said that a primary focus of the Ministry was to articulate to the country that Jamaicans have to “take an active role and invest more in the foods that we consume”.
“We have launched a programme over the last year and a half, where we have gone out and told Jamaicans to eat what we grow. We have said that we need to minimise the need to import,” he stated.
Dr. Tufton noted however that despite the challenges of the financial crisis, there were the numerous investment opportunities available in the agricultural sector, which was the largest employer in the country, accounting for 20 per cent of the workforce and six per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
He informed that the Ministry was launching a new company, which will be focussed on research, extension, marketing and investments. This company will also package and sell agricultural products.
In addition, a marketing division has been set up with an export arm soon to be added in the New York area, as the Ministry seeks to better understand the end users in the marketplace and take advantage of emerging trends.
“Who are the people, who want to consume Jamaican produce and what are they willing to pay for that product?” he asked. “We have to look at the value-added component of what we grow and help the country to earn more from the efforts we put into agriculture,” he added.
Dr. Tufton, in the meantime, thanked the Atlanta Jamaican Association for its continued interest in the country. “We are a nation that is much bigger than the physical size of the island and it is because of organisations such as yours that this nation called Jamaica is so closely knit, irrespective of geographic boundaries,” he stated.

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