Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, says work has commenced on two of the eight proposed agro parks to be established island wide, being undertaken over the next three years at a cost of US$8 million,
Dr. Phillips was speaking at the signing and launch of the $240.7 million (€2.25 million) Economic Partnership Agreement Capacity Building Project, at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) in Kingston, on December 11.
The Minister said he has been informed by the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Roger Clarke that work has started on the parks at Amity Hall, in St. Thomas and Ebony Park, in Clarendon, to improve the irrigation infrastructure and to put in other facilities.
“This will enable private producers, with the support and co-ordination of the Government, to get involved in modern 21st Century agriculture, so that we can meet the targets, not only of displacing imported food supplies, but capturing export markets, which are hungry for Jamaican products,” Dr. Phillips argued.
Noting that the Ministry of Agriculture is moving “full speed ahead” with the parks’ development, being advanced under the recently enacted Public-Private Partnership Policy (PPP), the Minister explained that these facilities will help to “stabilize” the agricultural supply chains, “deepen” inter-industry linkages, increase competitive import substitution, and incorporate what he described as “under-utilized” rural labour force into productive activity.
The Agriculture Minister, who announced the parks’ development in the House of Representatives in September, advised that these will be established in St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, and Trelawny.
He indicated that the initiative represented a “pragmatic approach” to enhancing Jamaica’s food security and reducing the country's food import bill. Focus, he informed, will be placed on producing onions, Irish potato, yam, honey, small ruminants, hot pepper, ginger, turmeric, pineapple, and aquaculture.
Mr. Clarke assured that the parks will be equipped with the requisite infrastructure to ensure sustainable production and enhance post harvest activities. These inputs include: irrigation, drainage, storage, and packing house facilities.
The Capacity Building Project, being funded by the European Union (EU), aims to create an enabling environment to support increased compliance of Jamaican agriculture and agribusiness exports, with international quality standards, to EU and other markets. This will be done by strengthening the capacity of infrastructure supporting the country’s export sector.
The project is designed to enhance Jamaica’s food security focus and competitiveness goals, as outlined in the National Export Strategy (NES), and the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, being administered by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
Project activities are slated to get underway this month with the commencement of an initial 18-month undertaking, for which €600,000 has been earmarked. This phase is slated to run until May 2014.
Welcoming the project, Mr. Clarke said it will have a “far-reaching” impact in facilitating the country’s adherence to international food safety standards, regulations, and practices.
“This (project) will assist the Ministry to outfit our labs with critical pieces of equipment and the technical capabilities that will make them much more efficient, as well as making an array of testing sites available to the trading public,” he pointed out, while citing the benefit of access to global markets accruable to exporters, by virtue of their products receiving accreditation from internationally recognized testing facilities.
Arguing that food safety “is everybody’s responsibility,” Mr. Clarke expressed gratitude to the EU and other stakeholders who have partnered with the Ministry to safeguard the quality and integrity of food consumed locally, as well as those exported.
“The Ministry signals its commitment to ensuring full compliance to global standards, through strengthened policies, institutional and regulatory frameworks and the provisions of technical support services where required,” the Minister assured.