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JIS News

The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) has implemented several strategies, and is in the process of initiating others, aimed at assisting farmers to produce, market and sell their produce.
In an interview with JIS News, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, says the strategies have been implemented to drive a policy for food security, and ultimately increase production in the island.
One of the initiatives the organisation has launched is the ‘Eat Jamaican’ campaign, which was launched five years ago. It aims to promote the consumption of locally grown agricultural produce.
“What that programme brings with it, is helping to train farmers to grow crops, in keeping with proper agricultural practices. This ensures that there is consistency with quality and the quantity of supplies, in an effort to get a stabilised price, as a part of our thrust to guarantee the market for our farmers,” he explains, adding that the JAS has intensified its campaign over the last five years.
“We are certainly seeing consumers responding to buying local products,” Senator Grant says, and urges consumers to buy locally grown produce, especially during the festive season.
The President points out that the ‘Eat Jamaican’ campaign is significant to Jamaica at this time, given the global food crisis and the difficulties being experienced in the international financial market.
One programme, which is on-stream, which Senator Grant says will assist farmers, is the JAS Information System. He informs that this is a marketing information system, which will enable farmers to interact with buyers and sellers.
“This technology, which we hope to launch between January and February 2009, or by the end of March next year, is funded by Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), in the sum of $12 million,” Senator Grant says.
“It will benefit farmers who are members of the JAS and wants to be members of this closed group. The intention is that, if a farmer has goods to sell, he can be a part of this interactive information, technologically-driven system, where he can meet a buyer. So, it is the meeting of a buyer and a seller, and we think that this programme is going to revolutionise agriculture in serious way,” he adds.
Another initiative highlighted by Senator Grant, is a series of training days that are provided for farmers, to build the capacity of the country’s farmers.
“What we do is we go on their fields with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) Extension Officers, with agricultural inputs and technical personnel, to find ways of really helping the farmers to improve productivity and efficiency,” he tells JIS News.
Senator Grant also notes that the JAS distributes receipt books to farmers, in keeping with the anti-praedial larceny initiative. He points out that this initiative is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Agriculture, adding that RADA, through its ABIS system, also registers farmers.
“What we do is to register a number of farmers to know exactly where they farm and what their crops are, so that we can help to plan, as it relates to the marketing of their agricultural produce,” he points out.
The President explains that the assistance being provided to farmers by the JAS are critical elements, underpinning the thrust towards attaining food security in Jamaica, “and to that extent, we are working assiduously with our farmers to utilise these measures, as we think that they are very critical to the building of a sustained economy, as it relates to food security.”
According to Senator Grant, the long term goal of the JAS is to work with farmers to make the activities viable. He notes that the Society is going through a strategic review, which is aimed at looking at the organisation, “to see how we can reposition it in a significant way, to determine how best we can build capacity, in order to be more independent and self-financing, and to ensure that a number of the assets that we have are working to the building of the society itself, our farmers, and the extended agricultural sector.”
“We have in the region of about 200,000 farmers and we want all of them to become members of the JAS. We want to see the agricultural contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), move from five per cent to in the region of 12 to 13 per cent, and we think that the JAS has a critical role to play. We are looking to position the organisation in that regard,” Senator Grant says.
He adds that steps are being taken to ensure that the Society builds the capacity of its branches, while helping to shape the future, for not only rural communities and the farmers, but Jamaica as a whole.
The President tells JIS News that the JAS will be stepping up its membership drive next year. “We are going out in the rural districts to recruit farmers in a big way, and try and get them arranged in groups, so that they can be more effective,” he informs.
Senator Grant highlights that public education programmes, both formally and informally, are being undertaken through the parish offices, in an effort to enlighten farmers of the measures of assistance being provided.
“The measures are important, because if you don’t enrich and create capacity within the sector, you are going to have a continuous problem, as it relates to food security. So these enabling assistance initiatives are very important, as we seek to increase production, and engage a strategy that will lead to food security,” he explains.
Senator Grant urges consumers to make every effort to buy products that are grown in Jamaica.
“We think that the ‘Eat what we grow…Grow what we eat’ campaign is very important, and we are very committed to developing, in a very concentrated way, the agricultural sector,” the President tells JIS News.