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Head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Agro-Investment Corporation, Dr. David Lowe, has said that there is scope for the development and growth of natural and organic agriculture in Jamaica, through a national policy framework for the sector.
“The strategies that we are looking at implementing, specifically organic, (are) really to contribute to the effort by identifying the pillars for development of a quality organic agricultural policy in Jamaica,” Dr. Lowe said.
He was speaking at the opening session of a two-day workshop on business opportunities in the European natural and organic products market, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on October 15.
He said that, in the past, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has facilitated the development of organic and natural agriculture in Jamaica through local and international partners, but there is now need to further refine previous strategies and implementation plans in order to further develop the sector.
Dr. Lowe noted that, in refining and creating a national policy on agriculture, existing policies would be reviewed as well as policies relating to organic and natural agriculture based on best practices around the world. In addition, current standards would have to be re-evaluated, and regulation for branding and labelling of organic produce to trade in goods domestically and internationally developed.
There is also a need to ensure that there is a sensitisation and training programme in place to address the lack of understanding of concepts and principles of organic agriculture and, in doing so, ensure that the decision makers and trainers are equipped with the technical knowledge to make those decisions.
He further pointed to the need to increase public awareness, once the policies are determined “by basically seeing how we are going to disseminate this information to the public.”
“We need to also develop an organic seed production programme. That’s critical, because yes, we can grow in a small way but we need to make sure that we develop our own local market opportunity, because that becomes another opportunity for growth, where you could be selling seeds and planting material to other places in the Caribbean or the region,” he recommended.
Dr. Lowe said that, over the last 10 years, there has been increased demand, use and interest in organic foods and natural products for health reasons.
He noted that foods labeled ‘organic’ must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity. They must be grown without using synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes and petroleum-based or sewage-based fertilisers, among other things.
“When we look at organic products, this is a niche area that will not replace traditional agriculture. The objective is to really make sure that it complements production capacity, and also by ensuring that we look to the unique aspects of the Jamaican produce and its export linkages to a lucrative and growing market overseas,” he said.
Dr. Lowe pointed out that the Scientific Research Council (SRC) has done extensive work in creating a research base, to understand where some Jamaican produce could play a role in this growing market.
“We have had extensive requests for ginger production from overseas markets, where they want to be convinced that we have the capacity to produce at a certain consistency, quality and, of course, delivery timeline,” he noted. He said that the SRC is also looking at launching lemon grass water, and will be exploring other opportunities for the production of similar natural products.
He said that, despite the economic downturn over the last year and a half, there has been a continued demand for natural and organic products.
He argued that if the sub-sector is developed, it would help to contribute to the country’s foreign exchange inflows and increase agriculture’s contribution to Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The workshop was put on by the Jamaica Wellness Cluster in collaboration with Organic Monitor, a United Kingdom (UK) based specialist research and consulting firm that focusses on global organic and related product industries. It is also in keeping with the Cluster’s objectives to identify new and competitive products, and to brand Jamaica as a premier location for health and wellness. It was conducted by Founder and Director of Organic Monitor, Amarjit Sahota.
Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Valerie Veira, at the opening session of the workshop, said she was excited that the seminar would not only look at the opportunities that exist for organic and natural products, but how to take these products to market.
“I hope that in the process, we will really demystify the concept of organic and natural products and what the requirements are, (and) what are the international standards,” she said.
The Jamaica Wellness Cluster, one of the five Clusters managed by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), is also part of the Cluster Sector Initiative component of the PSDP, a programme jointly funded by the Government of Jamaica and the European Union.
The Jamaica Wellness Cluster comprises several different type entities such as spas, fitness centres, gyms. It also has aroma therapy producers, herbal and organic producers and persons who produce natural foods and juices.
Topics discussed at the workshop included: Major Product Groups and Categories, Market Drivers and Restraints, Product Trends, Standards and Certification Issues and Market Entry Routes.

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