On the Corner with EPOC | Importing trouble - Red Hills Road residents want more protection for local products
As the Jamaican market continues to be flooded by foreign goods, participants in the latest Gleaner On the Corner with the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) forum made a strong call for more protection for local products.
The residents of Cassia Park in the St Andrew East Central constituency were passionate as they charged that local farmers and manufacturers are not getting sufficient protection from the Government.
They argued that the Government should protect small and medium-sized businesses while encouraging local production by the provision of cheaper loans.
Richard Pascoe, one of several residents who attended the forum at the Dollaz fi Dollaz Chill Spot on Red Hills Road, demanded an explanation from the co-chairman of EPOC Keith Duncan as to why more is not being done to push local products over imports.
"What about our yam? We used to have a good yam market. We are not investing in bananas anymore. That market used to be huge. Sugar and these crops that used to be our chief foreign currency earners, they have depreciated so much, it's crazy. Why are we not investing in local farming?" queried Pascoe.
He was supported by Michael Lawson, who questioned why the Government allows imported chicken while Jamaica has a vibrant chicken production.
"There are a lot of other products that we produce that are coming through the wharf without restrictions and they come in to compete with the local market and sell cheaper," argued Lawson.
"There is onion, scallion, and these things come here and are cheaper than the local export. So how is that helping the local economy?" added Lawson.
He argued that the United States was protecting its steel industry by placing tariffs on steel from other countries and, although facing a backlash, it was still protecting its workers.
"Why can't we stand up on our two feet and stop certain things from coming in the country like when Manley (Michael) stop them for the betterment of the country? That would produce more jobs because you would have to hire more people to work on the farms to produce," declared Lawson.
NO NEED TO INCREASE!
Julie Turner was just as vocal as she charged that there is a need to increase production in Jamaica, but that needs support from the Government.
The residents were incensed over the amount of Trinidadian products on the shelves across the island and what they claimed is the absence of Jamaican products in Trinidad and Tobago.
Duncan was quick to agree that there is a need to increase local production.
"The point is very well made. Between the Government and the private sector, we need to put in strategies to support and educate the youths and to build back our agriculture sector, because the market is right here in Jamaica for it. I couldn't agree with you more," said Duncan.
"We have many sectors in Jamaica, and agriculture contributes about 12 to 13 per cent of our total economy, and it used to be about 20 per cent. All governments must make a push towards local support, and I agree with you. Do you know we import about 80 per cent of our milk, and if we had the cows we could produce our own milk instead of having to import," added Duncan.
He pointed to the high level of imported produce used in local hotels and declared that there is an urgent need to increase production in the agricultural sector.
"But it's not the Government which is going to go there and farm, we have to go there and farm it ourselves. So right now, what I am saying to you is that you can produce some things like foodstuff, dairy, and sell to the hotels, because some farmers are making money from selling to the hotels," said Duncan.
The EPOC co-chairman argued that individuals need to invest in Jamaica so the country can see the desired growth.
"The Government can only facilitate the process, it's private investors, micro, medium, small, large, corporate investors who have to go in and invest in Jamaica to make it happen. It is up to us to make it happen," added Duncan.