Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, is calling on farmers to increase the production of fruits in order to reduce imports.
The Minister was speaking to journalists on Friday (September 21) following a tour of the AUSTROJAM Ltd. farm in Bluntas District, St. Elizabeth, where farmer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Martin Zsifkovics, is engaged in large-scale cultivation of fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, utilising irrigation technology provided by the National Irrigation Commission (NIC).
“What Martin is doing is showing that we have to take things to a higher volume level, so that we can cut down the importation of these critical fruits that we can produce here at a higher quality than what we actually import from abroad,” he said.
He noted that AUSTROJAM Ltd, which supplies hotels on the north coast as well as supermarkets across the island, is a great example of what can be achieved in Jamaica as it relates to import substitution.
“He [Mr. Zsifkovics] is a source of inspiration to me as Minister to say to other farmers that they should raise the volume levels and get rid of the importation of these [fruits] that we can produce successfully here in Jamaica,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Minister said that “apart from the hotel trade and the supermarkets locally, let’s target the other 15 CARICOM countries. Things like what we are producing here – cantaloupe, honeydew – can be sold into those 15 member countries because they are importing from the United States and other third-country markets”.
For his part, Mr. Zsifkovics, noted that the visit from the Minister serves to underscore the importance of the agriculture sector for the country’s sustained growth. “Agriculture is everybody’s business. We have to get everyone together and work as a unified team to grow our (agricultural sector), as only together can we make the change happen,” he said.
AUSTROJAM Ltd., which is in its 10th year of operation, grows and distributes watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin, honeydew, and cucumbers all year round. The farm is also involved in pig rearing.