Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, has underscored the need for Jamaica to use legislation more creatively to secure recent gains in the agricultural sector.
"Primary production, important as it is, is necessary but not sufficient. We have to use policies more creatively, more judiciously to stimulate growth in the sector. When I talk about policy, I'm talking about in terms of the kind of incentives, in terms of how we use our trade policy, in terms of just basically legislating certain aspects of our food security strategy," he told last Thursday's official launch of Agrofest 2011 at the Jamaica Agricultural Society's (JAS) headquarters.
"For instance, in some countries, by merely legislating that in school-feeding programmes you must have a certain percentage of local inputs, you would have created an entire industry," he said.
think outside the box
Speaking against the background of the 20 per cent increase in domestic crop production recorded for the first three months of the year, the permanent secretary challenged policymakers to think outside the box in ensuring food security. He cited the case of Brazil which, in developing its ethanol industry, had mandated the use of E10 in its fuel and has since increased the percentage of ethanol in gasolene.
"That is how you create markets. The challenge, though, is not to legislate those things and force people to pay more than they would ordinarily pay if they imported.
"For instance, our fledgling dairy industry needs that kind of support where we have to think outside the box. I think we have the potential and the capacity to say that any dairy product that we consume in Jamaica must be at least so much per cent and that will give the kind of fillip, the kind of stimulus and the kind of incentive to people to make the investment, secure in the knowledge that the market is there."
small farmers lauded
Stanberry also used the launch to pay tribute to small farmers, citing the importance of their collective contributions for growth in the sector, which was achieved against the many challenges facing the traditional crops. However, he said the agriculture ministry is working to address the issues.
"The truth is, we're having structural issues in relating to most of the traditional commodities. We are undergoing divestment in sugar so that we can get the appropriate investments to turn sugar around. Coffee, we are having some problems with marketing which are well known because the recession significantly affected consumption of coffee in our main market, Japan. Cocoa, we are restructuring, and citrus we are restructuring in partnership with the Citrus Growers' Association," the permanent secretary shared.
Dubbed Agrofest, the agricultural, industrial and food show to be held at Jamaica College on Saturday, May 21, will also include a farmers' market. Hosted by the Kingston & St Andrew Association of Branch Societies, it is the first parish show to receive $1 million from the agriculture ministry in keeping with a recent memorandum of understanding signed with the JAS.