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Noticias: detalle

Los mercados de agricultores organizados para ayudar al sector, no para competir
Fecha de publicación:08/05/2011
País: Jamaica
Fuente: Jamaica Observer

Dear Editor,

We note with concern some complaints from our constituents — traditional vendors, and some members of the public — about the efficacy and regularity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries/RADA farmers' markets and the consequential impact on the livelihoods of those who ply their wares from rural Jamaica to our urban and commercial centres.

An article published in the Sunday Observer on May 1, 2011, with the headline "Currie vendors unhappy with the farmers' markets" amplified the issue, although the substance of the story spoke ostensibly about the recent renovation and the welcome change now experienced by those who do business in the market.

To put the issue into perspective, one has to first examine the context within which the decision was arrived at in having these markets. Firstly, the weather played a very crucial part in crop production throughout 2010, but during the latter part of that year (October - December quarter) we were significantly affected when the country was hit by Tropical Storm Nicole in September.

The system negatively impacted production — dumping thousands of gallons of water all around, wiping out agricultural crops and leaving billions of dollars in infrastructural damage.

The country faced a brief period of shortage of a number of agricultural items and engaged in limited importation. At the same time, many of our farmlands were still waterlogged and could not have been put back into production immediately.

We were cognisant of the need to go back into the field as quickly as possible as we did not want to have a sustained period of shortage, and implored our farmers to re-engage their lands as quickly as it was safe to do so. The farmers complied. This was coupled with weather conditions conducive to crop production and productivity since December.

Domestic crop production recorded growth of some 24.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2011. As a result, there was a glut of several agricultural items including tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and cabbage. The ministry established the farmers' market as a means of managing surplus production but it also gave farmers a more equitable stake in their production. It also provided an avenue for consumers to not only consume more locally grown items, but to get them fresher and more economically.

In short, it was conceived as a 'win-win' situation for the farmer and consumer alike. In addition, because the farmers were able to sell their produce during this time of glut, the cycle of "lack of market frustration" was relieved, thereby encouraging future production.

The first markets started late January spanning several locations across the country, and between February and April there were two markets each month. Following an assessment, and based on some initial comments from the public about their regularity, and despite calls to host them even more frequently, the ministry took the decision to not only stage the markets once per month but also to change the day, from the usual Friday to the last Wednesday in the month. This, as there was a view that we were competing with established or traditional markets which normally are on Fridays and Saturdays.

We wish to state clearly, that the ministry/RADA markets are not intended to compete with traditional markets but rather to complement them. They are to encourage additional consumption due to the lower prices and convenience thereby promoting the "Grow what we eat, eat what we grow" campaign. Additionally, it should be noted that in some cases, the traditional vendors (higglers) were able to purchase wholesale quantities of produce without incurring transportation costs, which should translate to lower prices for consumers at the traditional markets.

There have been seven rounds of markets to date in (St Andrew, St Catherine, Manchester, Portland, St Mary, St James and Westmoreland), which have been very successful, having sold some £2-million of produce valued at over $106 million with more than 120,000 people passing through them.

However, we must point out that there are also private individuals in Portmore and St Ann who are also staging farmers' markets and to which the ministry and RADA have no association.

The agricultural sector represents a real area for growth for the country and our farmers have responded to the call to produce, which in turn has changed the landscape of agricultural marketing. We value and appreciate all stakeholders in the agricultural sector who have contributed to its growth and development over the years and we are willing to work with all players in advancing our farmers and the sector.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

Palabras clave: mercados de agricultores, Ministerio de Agricultura, Jamaica
Publicado por: Jamaica Observer