JIS News

A Motion calling on Government agencies, farmers’ organisations and related bodies, to give full support to the nation’s farmers, in their quest to increase food production, was approved by the Senate, on September 12.
Moved by Opposition Senator, Norman Grant, the Motion is seeking to prevent, or break the vicious cycle of poverty and food insecurity that could arise, as a result of the current challenges.
He pointed out that food security means ensuring that sufficient food is available, that supplies are relatively stable, and that those in need of food, obtain it.
Senator Grant, who is also President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), said that although Governments, with support from various developmental agencies, have tried to address food security in many ways, “today, with some 800 million people in developing countries, about 20 per cent of their total population are chronically undernourished.”
He noted further that with the growing world population, currently at of 5.7 billion, and expected to rise to 8.3 billion by the year 2025, this situation would worsen, unless “very determined and well-targeted actions are taken to improve food security.”
Citing a World Bank release, Senator Grant pointed out that the present global food crisis now affecting over 30 economies in developing countries, could force the World Bank to increase the allocation of its resources to agriculture in developing countries, from four per cent to 12 per cent.
Turning to the issue of agricultural commodities, such as corn and soy beans, being used as a means of renewable energy, instead of food, he noted that the rising demand for bio-fuel, has led to competition for scarce resources, such as land and water, that would otherwise be used for food production.
“Another multiplier effect from the use of bio-fuel, is the rise of the price of fertilisers and other input materials that have severely affected production costs and the price of our food,” Senator Grant said.
He pointed out that on the world market, from March 2007 to March 2008, the price of basic food commodities, such as corn, had risen by 31 per cent; rice, 74 per cent; soya, 87 per cent; and wheat by a whopping 130 per cent.
“In Jamaica, those rising prices have been affecting us tremendously, pushing up the price of basic food products, such as flour, cereal, bread, chicken and so on. A balance therefore, needs to be found between exploiting bio-energy opportunities, while ensuring that production continues for the adequate supply of food and affordable purchase for consumption,” Mr. Grant argued.
To this end, the Senator recommended a review of the impact of bio-fuel on food security, “and how the two can co-exist.”
He also informed the Senate that the JAS would continue its promotion of the ‘Eat Jamaican’ campaign, which is geared towards “sensitising Jamaicans of the fact that the farmers produce an array of quality, healthy and nutritious foods and that as Jamaicans, we should embrace and support this production by eating Jamaican foods.”
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Don Wehby, in his remarks, said that he supported Senator Grant’s Motion, noting that “we need to look at the whole agricultural sector against the background of food security.”
He said that due to the devastation of the agricultural sector by hurricanes, “we had to import a number of produce at a much higher price, and we all know the impact it has had on our poor.”
Citing the hotel industry, which has been showing much growth, the Senator suggested turning to that sector, as a means of securing investments in the agricultural sector. He proposed that “a structured backward linkage of our agricultural sector into the hotel sector,” be established, which would allow the industry to play a more important role in the hotel industry.