Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, says the government’s new tax package targeting imported food items will benefit the Jamaican farmer and the local agricultural sector.
He made the comments against the background of Government’s decision to apply additional stamp duties on imported meats, fish, ham and bacon instead of taxing animal feeds, fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, fish and meat as was proposed in the original package announced by Finance Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, earlier this month.
“What we are doing is putting the duty on imported food stuff into this country, so that our farmers benefit instead of fattening farmers from abroad. Those of us who are tied to this foreign taste will understand that you have to pay for it,” he stated.
The Minister was speaking at Wednesday’s (June 26) launch of the Denbigh Agri-Industrial Show 2012 held on the lawns of the ACE Supercentre in White Marl, St. Catherine.
The Agriculture Minister informed that just last year, the country imported US$930 million worth of food, up from US$800 million in 2010.
“The trajectory seems like we are heading to the billion,” he said, lamenting that “the more we talk about ‘Eat what we grow and grow what we eat’ is the more the importation is going up."
He said the government “is determined that we are going to make a dent in that importation” and “level the playing field so that our farmers can grow and progress and agriculture can become something that our farmers are proud of."
He said the Ministry will be working closely with local farmers, as well as the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), the 4-H Clubs and all other stakeholders, to ensure that the objectives are realised.
“Our aim is not just to plant to feed ourselves, but to also export overseas and therefore, we will have to expand our export agriculture and we’re working at that in a very significant way,” he stated.
A major part of this thrust is to revitalise the local coffee and cocoa industries as well as increase the production of ginger, turmeric, Irish potato, onion, among other products.
“We have decided that we are going to grow those products as much as we can in Jamaica to make sure that we don’t have to import all of that stuff. Jamaica produces probably the best cocoa in the world but we have been declining, and so we have to step it up because we must export as much of that as we can,” Minister Clarke stated.
“Our intention is to also see how far we can go on the value chain. We have to get into agro-processing, we have to get to a higher level so that our farmers can get the maximum out of what we are producing,” he added.
The Denbigh Agri-Industrial Show, which is in its 60th year, will be held from Saturday, August 4, to Monday, August 6 at the Denbigh showground in May Pen, Clarendon, under the theme: ‘Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow. Denbigh at 60: Celebrating Achievements in Agriculture”.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter