JIS News

Thirty-five small farmers and 26 operators of local economic initiatives (LEI) in St. James got the opportunity to market their goods during a community market and business fair staged by the Social Development Commission (SDC) on Thursday (December 17).

The event, held at Montego Park Estate in Ironshore, was the third for the parish and targeted businesses under the SDC’s Local Economic Development Support Programme (LEDSP).

It also formed part of the SDC’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response by offering customers ease of access to goods and services in a regulated, sterilised and decentralised location.

Among the items on sale were fruits, vegetables, ground provisions, flowers, craft items, and beauty care products.

Parish Manager for the SDC’s St. James office, Randy Hayle, told JIS News that the event provided an opportunity to help alleviate the economic impact of the ongoing pandemic on small entrepreneurs.

“We have brought together an excellent demonstration of farmers and LEIs. These persons would have been impacted [by COVID 19].

They would have lost the income source they have been having, and so SDC has responded to bring them here in Ironshore,” he explained.

He said that all protocols were observed as it relates to COVID-19. “You have seen a number of hand-sanitising stations, all persons are wearing their masks and the signs are all over the place. So this is a major initiative by the SDC and we have the blessings of our major partners and stakeholders,” he noted.

Director of Local Economic Development and Community Projects at SDC, Avril Ranger, said that the agency has offered support services to more than 409 LEIs across the country through the staging of 32 fairs.

Another 10 are scheduled to take place by the end of March 2021.

“So if you walk through our fairs, you will see that beside a farmer you will have an LEI, and this sort of a marriage is encouraging customers to look beyond the food and also look at what our local producers are doing,” Ms. Ranger said.

“So our honey producers, craft and fashion are all benefiting from this. The merger between the community market and business fair has been working wonders, [and] our LEIs are reporting greater sales,” she added.

Farmer Omar Richards, who brought his produce to the fair, said he is grateful for the opportunity to sell his goods in a comfortable environment.

“As a farmer, I love it and wouldn’t mind if this can go on,” he told JIS News.

The SDC will stage its next community fair at South Haven in St. Thomas on Saturday, December 19.

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