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Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and the Ministry of Health to get more local produce into the national school-feeding programme.
  • “We are putting together a… programme where we will say to farmers, ‘produce and we will feed the children from what we grow’, which is more nutritious for them,” said Agriculture Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw.
  • “We plant pumpkin, sweet potato and breadfruit, which are more highly nutritious for children than imported flour and rice,” he added, noting that the initiative will increase income for farmers.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and the Ministry of Health to get more local produce into the national school-feeding programme.

“We are putting together a… programme where we will say to farmers, ‘produce and we will feed the children from what we grow’, which is more nutritious for them,” said Agriculture Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw.

“We plant pumpkin, sweet potato and breadfruit, which are more highly nutritious for children than imported flour and rice,” he added, noting that the initiative will increase income for farmers.

Minister Shaw was speaking at an Open Day staged by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) Manchester office at Brooks Park in the parish on Friday (March 22).

The school-feeding programme is one of four areas being targeted by the Ministry in ensuring that farmers can have guaranteed markets for their produce.

The others are the hotels that import food for guests; the Jamaican diaspora in the United Kingdom (UK), Canada and the United States (US); and the regional CARICOM market of 15 countries to which goods can be exported duty-free.

“Most of those (CARICOM) countries are so small, they cannot grow enough of what they eat,” Minister Shaw pointed out.

He said that the “Government must give farmers the confidence that when they invest in agriculture, they will have a guaranteed market for their produce”.

He noted that there are 20 containers of frozen vegetables imported into Jamaica every month and all of them can be grown in Jamaica, so we have to get serious”.

“We have to plant more to reduce imports, and what cannot be sold fresh, has to be processed similar to what obtains in large industrial countries,” he pointed out.

A part of the measures to boost market access is improving road infrastructure, for which the Government will be spending some $752 million in the 2019/20 fiscal year, under the National Farm Roads Project.

The initiative, implemented in 2015, aims to provide improved direct market access for an estimated 11,506 farmers across the island.

“So far for this parish (Manchester), we have refurbished 13 roads or approximately seven kilometres at a cost of $42 million,” Minister Shaw said.

Meanwhile, he commended the parish for being the “highest in agricultural productivity in Jamaica”.

“We are number one. But that does not mean we are at the highest point we ought to be. We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

He noted that Irish potato farmers, who are now in the middle of the planting season, are part of a productivity incentive scheme whereby hundreds of them have received seeds free of cost.

The Open Day included exhibits from public- and private-sector entities such as the Social Development Commission (SDC), National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), National Housing Trust (NHT), Fersan, Hi-Pro, Manchester Co-Op Credit Union, Pioneer Chocolate, H&L Agro, and main sponsor, Growers’ Choice.

There was a mini farmers market featuring fresh produce grown by farmers from Manchester, Trelawny and St. Elizabeth such as sweet peppers, pumpkin, red peas, chocho, scallion, thyme, zucchini, cabbage, organic sweet potato, turnip, romaine and iceberg lettuce, Irish potato, sugar cane, purple cabbage and plummy tomatoes.