JIS News

Approximately $11 million was spent at recent farmers’ markets and business fairs organised by the Social Development Commission (SDC) as the agency tries to keep community businesses in operation during this period of economic downturn, caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Public Relations Manager of the SDC, Mandel McKulsky, told JIS News that the amount in sales is from seven farmers’ markets and business fairs.

“Thus far, the combination of sales from farmers’ markets and local economic initiatives is approximately $11 million. These include those held in St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Ann, and Clarendon,” he said.

“The farmers’ markets are being done as part of the SDC’s strategy as a means of establishing controlled and regulated platforms for the public to access food and groceries, while establishing a continuity of business and commerce at the community level. The focus is primarily on the resuscitation of small and medium-sized businesses, and farmers within these communities,” Mr. McKulsky added.

The SDC has two remaining farmers’ markets for this month, which are the Denbigh Farmers’ Market and Business Fair at the Denbigh Showground in May Pen, Clarendon, and the Portmore Farmers’ Market and Business Fair, to be held at the Greater Portmore Football Field, Portmore, St. Catherine, on June 26 and 27, respectively. Both events will last from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“These farmers’ markets will showcase local economic initiatives from the SDC. Those are specific businesses that the Social Development Commission has been working with through our Local Economic Initiative Support Programme,” Mr. McKulsky said.

“Additionally, we will have farmers on the ground selling their produce at a very competitive rate. There will be fruits, vegetables, local meat (chicken), ground provision, natural seasonings, juices and much more on display on the day. On the Saturday (June 27), there will be a special feature, which will be the raw and Hellshire-style fish for sale on the day,” he added.

While noting that the farmers’ markets have received “significant” support from the public, with patrons asking for more community farmers’ markets, Mr. McKulsky pointed out that COVID-19 Government Orders are observed at each staging. Patrons are sanitised upon entry and reminded to wear masks while practising social distancing. Each venue is also equipped with washstands for use.

General partners with the SDC for the farmers’ markets and business fairs include the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), the health departments, municipal corporations, members of Parliament for the various constituencies, development area committees and community development committees.

“These farmers’ markets provide a platform to have a safe one-stop shop, not only for ground provisions and green leafy vegetables but also agro-processed goods from local economic initiatives as well as from businesses in the communities surrounding the space,” explained Mr. McKulsky.

Upcoming farmers’ markets for the month of July are in Hanover (July 2), St. Mary (July 3), Clarendon (July 4), Kingston and St. Andrew (July 11), Manchester (July 24), St. Thomas (July 25), and Trelawny (July 31).

Confirmed venues for each will be shared on the SDC’s social media pages. While local economic initiatives from each parish will be automatically invited to participate, farmers interested in selling their produce at any of the farmers’ markets may contact the respective SDC parish offices to make arrangements.

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