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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the world food crisis has forced investment in agriculture, and is pushing consumers to accept local food options. The Minister who was speaking on (October 24), at the Alpart Community Council’s Annual General Meeting, held at the company’s sports club in Nain, St. Elizabeth, noted that the Government is promoting programmes to boost agricultural production and lessen the need for imports.
“The world food crisis has forced investment in agriculture, and agriculture will be the most important response to the global financial melt down, and it can respond at the local level by providing viable options and alternatives to what we would normally depend on as imports to feed ourselves. And that is why the programmes that we promote in the Ministry of Agriculture, are geared towards improving the way that we do things,” he said. Dr. Tufton added that he is working towards the farmers becoming empowered enough to meet the current crisis in the cost of food, “We are positioning our farmers to build capacity, because that is going to be important if we are to position ourselves in the world and in our respective communities. We have to do more research, more training and have more extension officers so that more farmers can be reached and services from the agencies reach the farmers so that we can achieve our objectives of more food for our people and more earnings for the farmers,” he added.
Dr. Tufton further added that his Ministry recently completed a study on 12 crops that have declined over the years, to determine what led to their decline, and the things that can be done to improve their output. This he said is another move to put more locally produced food on the market. “The objective of this administration is to ensure that farming is an activity that brings returns. If our farmers respond to the challenge of production and productivity, we are going to find ways to protect them from subsidised imported foods that have eroded their capacity here in the country. We have been compromised to a large extent by subsidised imports; we see the grade C and D Crops coming in every day and some of the prices are so low that our farmers can’t compete with them. In some of the developed markets those items would have been destroyed or turned into animal feeds, he said. He added that the Ministry is looking at the pricing and safety standards of some of the imported items, “We are working with the Customs Department and the Ministry of Health, to ensure that the health and safety of the Jamaican consumer is not threatened, and similarly, that their prices are not subsidised over the Jamaican farmers,” Dr. Tufton stated.