United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Her Excellency Pamela Bridgewater, is calling on Governments in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands to leverage their advantages to build sustainable and productive agricultural enterprises and create opportunities for women-owned businesses.
The Ambassador was speaking on Wednesday, July 10, at the opening of a three-day forum at the Half Moon Conference Centre in Montego Bay, which focuses on the expansion of opportunities for women in agriculture in the island regions.
The Ambassador noted that Jamaica, like other small island states, does not enjoy an abundance of arable land, nor does the country produce crops in sufficient quantities to export large surpluses. She noted, however, that the country has used its strong global brand, which she stated, rivals many of the largest nations, and entrepreneurial knowhow, to carve out a niche in the global marketplace.
“Jamaican farmers have developed world-class niche market products such as Blue Mountain Coffee, sorrel, bammy, festival, spices, ackee, ginger, and jerk chicken and jerk pork,” she told the gathering.
She said that there are other advantages enjoyed by Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean and Pacific, such as having a year-round growing season, favourable geographic position, vibrant Diaspora communities, a history of inter-Caribbean networking among women entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens.
These, she said, could be further exploited to grow agriculture in both regions and reduce imports.
She noted that the Caribbean imports $5 billion in agricultural products each year, and citizens of some Pacific countries spend up to 50 per cent of their income on food, due to high food prices caused by importation.
“As the tourism industry expands in both regions, this figure is likely to grow, unless stakeholders across all sectors capitalise on the demand for local goods and services,” Ambassador Bridgewater told her audience.
She cited opportunities in organic farming, noting that there are ready markets in Europe, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, where people “are strong on eating untainted produced foods”.
“We have seen a renewed interest in eating and buying locally, highlighted by a willingness to pay a premium for organic, local, fair trade, and sustainable products. The ‘farm to table’ concept is a growing and popular one in restaurants in the United States. These niche markets represent great opportunities for investment and economic growth by actively meeting existing demand,” she stated.
She stated that Governments of small island nations can help women-owned business to improve their chances for success by instituting policies and regulations that are friendly to entrepreneurs, facilitate their access to credit, strengthen property rights, and ensure equal treatment under the rule of law.
The three-day forum titled: ‘Supporting Economic Empowerment and Development in the Caribbean and the Pacific (SEED CAP),’ is organised by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, with support from the United Sates and New Zealand.
It is seeking to promote agricultural best practices among women in the sector from both regions.
Contact: Garfield L. Angus