Los donantes obligaron a Jamaica a descuidar su sector agrícola, según una fuente ministerial
A SENIOR agriculture ministry official is blaming agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and Jamaica's international trade partners for Jamaica's massive food- import bill, which at the end of 2009 stood at US$802.3 million.
"We were conned by our international trade partners to set our trade policies in such a way that we focused on importing cheap foods," Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, told banana farmers during Tuesday's annual general meeting of the All-Island Banana Growers' Association, held at the Anglican Church Hall in Port Maria, St Mary.
Speaking with The Gleaner afterwards, the permanent secretary named some of the international agencies he blamed for setting the stage to undermine Jamaica's economy.
"The truth is the IMF, the World Bank, all our international partners expounded and commended to us, 20 years ago or so, that we must engage in specialisation where we focus on services, tourism and that kind of thing because we had a competitive advantage and just buy food because we weren't competitive. That's acknowledged and they have acknowledged it," he emphasised.
"And we did that, we built tourism, we (are) still benefiting from tourism. We tried to build the services, but somewhat in relative terms neglected agriculture because it was felt that we could always get cheap food. Cheap milk out of Holland, cheap rice out of US under PL-480, subsidised, goods which were highly subsidised."
The problem, according to Stanberry, was compounded by the fact that over the years, Jamaica neglected the capacity building within the agriculture sector, in the name of free trade. The fallacy of this strategy was brought home forcibly and at great expense by the convergence of a series of events, including the end of the preferential trade pact with Europe under which Jamaica enjoyed preferential treatment as a member of the ACP (African, Caribbean & Pacific countries) group.
"What has happened, about four, five years ago the tables began to turn, climate (change) is impacting production and supply. A series of natural disasters and speculation in the commodity markets cause food prices to rise way out of the reach of poor people and that has brought back the whole issue of food security," said Stanberry.
Turning to banana, he had more reasons/excuses for Jamaica's inability to meet the challenges of globalisation. Beset by the twin devils of natural disasters, which caused the export market to crash in 2008, and challenges to its traditional European market, he said it was doomed to fail.
"A small country like Jamaica could never hope to be so efficient as to grow banana, at the cost of production that obtains, in places like Latin America."