The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is moving to further enhance production in nine key crops and sectors, as part of short term efforts to counter the challenges associated with rising global food prices that could have serious implications for Jamaica. Portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, says the crops and sectors identified include: Irish potato, onion, yam, honey, small ruminants, hot pepper, ginger, turmeric, pineapple, and aquaculture.
Speaking at a Food and Nutrition Security Policy Validation Workshop, jointly staged by the Ministry and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), at the Terra Nova Hotel, on September 26, Mr. Clarke said growth and development of these crops and sectors will be underpinned by the Ministry’s US$8 million investment to establish eight agro-parks across the island. These will be established in St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, and Trelawny. They will be outfitted with the requisite infrastructure to ensure sustainable production, and enhanced post-harvest handling activities incorporating drainage, storage and packing house facilities.
Noting that Jamaica recorded a US$936 million food import bill in 2011, Mr. Clarke said the administration remains "concerned" about the nation's food security, "having regard to our high dependence on imports." "We (government) are even more concerned, given the sharp increases in the price of corn resulting from the drought affecting the United States Midwest. This has renewed calls for countries, such as ours, to move apace with our own food security strategies," the Minister emphasised.
“We know that the challenges are structural, and as such, cannot be solved through short term measures. Instead, solutions must be created through policy shifts, legislations and long term programmes, geared at putting more lands into production, and improving agricultural production and productivity," he contended.
Pivotal to this effort, Mr. Clarke said, is the Food and Nutrition Security Policy, which will be the government's "roadmap" that will address, “once and for all," most of the challenges associated with food security. "The policy will provide the overarching framework for all government interventions in this regard (and will focus on) the four pillars of food security, namely food availability, access to food, food utilisation, and stability of food supply," he noted.
Development of the policy was a collaborative undertaking involving the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries; Health; Industry, Investment and Commerce; Education; and Labour and Social Security; and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). The workshop brought together these and other key interests, for final deliberations ahead of next month's launch of the document by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller.
"For Jamaica, food security goes beyond the immediate demands of nutrition. It is a strategic position that we are required to take in order to secure the livelihood of our people and a position in the marketplace," Mr. Clarke underscored.
In this regard, the Minister urged stakeholders to collaborate in ensuring wide-scale adaptation of, and support for the policy, while reaffirming the Government’s commitment to provide the requisite support that will position Jamaica to become self-sufficient.