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The Ministries of Agriculture and Energy are collaborating to develop a biofuel policy for Jamaica, as the Government seeks to ensure food and energy security.
“A biofuel policy is critical to protect food supply, safeguard the food chain and focus on research and technology to drive efficiencies and production to meet future energy needs while safeguarding the environment,” said Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, at a biofuels workshop held recently at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
The two-day workshop brought together experts from the Caribbean and Latin America, to examine methodologies for developing a biofuel policy for Jamaica.
Minister Tufton described as critical and heartening, the multi-stakeholder approach to the formulation of Jamaica’s first biofuel policy.
“Any such policy formulation”, he said, “must involve collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the farmers of Jamaica, to ensure that the agricultural sector and our food security are safeguarded”.
The Minister pointed out that by year 2010, 20 per cent of energy needs worldwide will be met from biofuel and “if appropriate strategies are not pursued, there will be a major increase in the price of food.”
He pointed out that the use of corn by the United States as a primary source of biofuel has led to price increases in corn of between three and five per cent, as well as increases in feed stock and animal protein.
“A biofuel policy”, he argued, “is critical in pre-determining the type of products that should be used while ensuring that there is balance between food security and alternative energy”.
He cited examples of crops with energy production potential such as sorghum, sweet soya, switchgrass and jatropha. The latter is used to produce diesel.
An added bonus, he emphasised, is the fact that some of these plants may be grown on marginal or mined-out lands. He cautioned however, that research must be an integral part of the process, and that “the Ministry of Agriculture’s Centre for Excellence has been conceptualised to address such research needs”.
Minister Tufton noted that the Centre of Excellence would be geared towards “identifying best practices in agriculture, best use of lands, best crop and more”, and that “as a major co-coordinator of research, it will be in a position to apply findings to test models to drive the production and use of alternative energy”.