Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Milk is crucial to children's nutrition

Published:Saturday | November 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I feel constrained to comment on Friday's report by Tameka Gordon on what appears to me as unproductive cross-talk regarding the role of milk in the national School Feeding Programme.

I intervene as one who has passionately espoused over many years the view that the national School Feeding Programme provides a strategic link to any sustained growth in agriculture, not just in respect of the dairy industry.

A Jamaica Information Service report of September 5, 2016 indicated a planned expenditure for the 2016-17 fiscal year of J$4.3 billion by the School Feeding Programme to cover meals for approximately 130,000 students. Over a 195-day school year, this works out at an average spending per child of approximately $170 per day. Ignoring the details of the wide-ranging forms which a 'school meal' might take, this figure seems, on the surface, quite extravagant for a mass feeding programme. At the equivalent of approximately US$256 per child per year, Jamaica's projected unit cost compares with a median US$46 per annum reported by the World Food Programme in a 2013 publication on 'The State of School Feeding Worldwide'( This seems to nullify Mr James Rawle's contention of locally produced milk being too expensive for inclusion in the school fare.

With specific regard to the inclusion of milk in the School Feeding Programme, my recollection, as a former CEO of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board, was that a medium-skimmed milk drink would be offered, thus creating several value-added options for processors and, importantly, lowering the cost of liquid milk to the School Feeding Programme.



This might have had the unpalatable effect that Nutrition Products Limited would not have been in any position to supply such a product and might very well provide an explanation for "their being left out of the loop".

I should point out, in closing, that with an enrolment of more than 630,000 students in the public education system, a rationalised School Milk Programme offers a potential market in excess of 25 million litres per year.

While I am encouraged by Seprod's commitment to expanding its output to 20 million litres in the medium term, I would like to suggest that the Jamaican Government remain a vital player in creating, through its School Feeding Programme and other policy imperatives, the type of market stability required for driving Jamaica to begin to approach its potential for accelerated agricultural development.