JIS News

Despite setbacks from hurricanes last year, the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) is still committed to assisting farmers in marketing their produce through its recently launched Central Marketing System and will, within the next few months, intensify the collection of produce for distribution to entities.
“Right now we are buying and we are selling but within the next three to four months you should see an increase in activity as it relates to the marketing of the agricultural produce for farmers,” said JAS President, Senator Norman Grant.
Launched last year as a pilot in St. Elizabeth, the marketing system involves collaboration among the JAS, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) to identify particular crops that will be demanded by agro processors, distributors, hotels and the tourism sector.
The objective is to group farmers in such a way, that they could benefit from marketing intelligence provided by RADA to grow particular crops to meet demand and ensure a balancing of prices. “There is certainly the prevention of farmers going into a situation where they produce crops hoping to sell and all of a sudden a glut is experienced and the farmers are unable to sell the produce,” Senator Grant explained to JIS News.
But natural disasters last year, such as flooding and hurricanes, had set back the progress of the system as farmers suffered considerable losses. With farmers already replanting and crops being reaped, the project is expected to regain its footing soon. “We are progressing well, we are up, the volume of trade will increase .”, he stated.
He noted that already, the JAS has secured a long-term contract with the SuperClubs resort chain, valued at some $50 million, while there are agreements with three to four major hotels and supermarket chains, exporters and agro processors.
“What we are saying is that when these groups need produce, they don’t have to go down to the farmers. They can just come to the JAS and we will certainly locate the produce in more consistent volumes for them,” Senator Grant noted.
Meanwhile, some $5 million of a promised $10 million has been received from the government towards the project and three trucks are expected from the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance and Planning for use in the distribution process.
Additionally, some four new products including carrot juice and bottled water, have been established under the thrust, which sees the JAS venturing into valued-added products.
Pointing to the benefits of the marketing scheme, Senator Grant said farmers would, through the system, be provided with better prices than at present while facilitating “quality produce and consistency of supply.”
He said through the working partnership with RADA and the benefit of their marketing intelligence, the JAS would be able to inform farmers of the specific crops, which could be grown, the quantity and when to plant.
He noted that this precision would facilitate long-term contracts and commitment on the part of the farmers. “We will just have to be committed to supply those contracts on a sustained basis,” he asserted.
Responding to concerns about a glut on the market for certain produce and the consequent decline in prices, Senator Grant assured that the mechanism would bring about stability in price, once the programme is nationalized and distribution evened out.
He said that the unevenness in prices and the “dumping” of produce was further aggravated by the absence of a central marketing scheme.
He noted however, that the JAS, with the full backing of the government would endeavour to have the system fully in place this year, to improve the condition of the island’s farmers.

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