- Within the next three months, the Government is expected to launch a strategy aimed at discouraging the cultivation of tobacco in Jamaica.
- Under the initiative, tobacco farmers, who are to receive training, will be introduced to alternative crops.
- CEO of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Lenworth Fulton, informed that these are to be grown in demonstration plots across the island.
Within the next three months, the Government is expected to launch a strategy aimed at discouraging the cultivation of tobacco in Jamaica, as it seeks to regulate the production and use of the drug.
Under the initiative, tobacco farmers, who are to receive training, will be introduced to alternative crops such as Irish potato, ginger, tomato, and other produce that have export value.
Making the disclosure on April 2, Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Lenworth Fulton, informed that these are to be grown in demonstration plots across the island.
He was addressing the opening session of the two-day Inter-Ministerial Meeting on Tobacco and Trade, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
Mr. Fulton, who was representing the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, said this measure was being undertaken given the pivotal role the Ministry has in monitoring the cultivation of tobacco, in the context of promoting food safety and security, and ensuring the sustainable development of a healthy and productive population.
Citing data from a 2011 survey conducted by RADA, Mr. Fulton noted that while the large scale commercial production of tobacco almost disappeared during the early 1990s, there has been a resurgence in the cultivation of the crop.
This has resulted in approximately 496,000 pounds of tobacco being produced annually.
He said this increase in cultivation has been led by strong demand “in a mainly informal market for locally grown tobacco and to a lesser extent, the demand for tobacco for a small cigar making sub-sector”.
Mr. Fulton lamented that this trend has continued despite Jamaica’s ratification of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), as well as other measures implemented to control tobacco use in Jamaica.
He said the Ministry, is seeking to reduce the acreage of tobacco in production, which, according to the survey is 310.5.
The strategy will target the 573, mainly small scale farmers engaging in the cultivation of the plant, particularly those in St. Elizabeth, and St. Ann. The garden parish accounts for more than a third of the estimated total acreage of tobacco island-wide.
The Government, led by the Ministry of Health, has been actively working to strengthen the impact of tobacco control measures in Jamaica, leading up to, and following the implementation of the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, 2013 which imposed a ban on smoking in specified public places.
The Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson; Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton; and State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, also made presentations. They all committed to working more closely, to deal with the health and trade related issues of tobacco use.
The meeting, organised by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)/ WHO in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, brings together high level representatives of government ministries, departments, and agencies, and other stakeholders.
This is with the aim of facilitating discussion on the linkages, interactions, and inter-play between organisations in relation to tobacco control, and trade policies.
The consultation also seeks to chart a way forward for the implementation of more laws for Jamaica to be fully compliant with the WHO FCTC, which the Government signed in 2003, and ratified in 2005.
A protocol adopted by the parties to the FCTC, aims to eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products by requiring parties to take measures to control the supply chain of tobacco products effectively, and to co-operate internationally on a wide range of matters.
The FCTC is the first multilateral agreement aimed at directly addressing the harmful effects of tobacco, by reducing tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The provisions of the FCTC govern the production, sale, distribution, advertisement and taxation of tobacco. The FCTC sets the minimum standards required in this regard and signatories to the Agreement are encouraged to be even more stringent in how they regulate tobacco use, and consumption.