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The Senate has approved a motion urging the Government to intensify its policies and programmes supporting the growing and consumption of locally grown foods.
The motion also urged the Government to establish a bipartisan multi-stakeholder task force, aimed at identifying the causes of the continuous increase of imports over the last 25 years and to make recommendations that can lead to a reversal of the trend.
Opposition Senator Norman Grant, who moved the motion, stated that the country’s agricultural production has increased from US$402.7 million in 2004 to US$885 million, or 16 per cent more than the US$760 million of 2007.
“To compound the problem, the country imported, in 2008, approximately US$875 million worth of manufactured goods, bringing the total imports to US$1.7 billion,” Senator Grant said.
“We need to triple our production, dramatically, by 2013, so that we can cut our imports significantly. We need to get production levels, in short order, up to 800,000 to 900,000 metric tonnes, annually, and continue to grow this, incrementally, thereafter,” he suggested.
According to Senator Grant, if this is done, not only would the economy enjoy significant growth, through the increased agricultural output and the rebuilding of the rural economy, but the reduced imports would slash the demand for the United States dollar and help to boost the value of the local currency.
He also recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries develop a programme to target the importation of crops that can be produced locally, and remove the waivers.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, Senator Warren Newby, stated that despite numerous studies by qualified academics, Jamaica has not sufficiently diversified its crops, or improved its productivity in agriculture.
He noted, however, that the Government has been implementing policies which will aid in the development of the agricultural sector.
“There is no wavering from the Government to implement policies and programmes to support the growing and consumption of locally grown produce. We support the advancement of the Buy Jamaican campaign, because we have to be holistic in our approach to the development of the agricultural sector,” Senator Newby said.