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US$80 billion industry open to Jamaican organic farmers

Published:Friday | August 5, 2016 | 8:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston

Jamaican farmers have the opportunity to tap into a US$80 billion industry if they shift their focus to organic farming, this according to Kimone Gooden of the Diaspora Task Force.

The Gleaner caught up with the team at the 64th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural show in Clarendon, where they conducted three days of workshop educating farmers on the possibilities that can be opened up to them.

Gooden shared that a half of the US$80 billion market was in the United States alone, where they imported 90 per cent of the organic food they need.

"So the United States has a bigger demand than they can actually produce, and where are we when we can relate to the US?" she quizzed.

"They (are) bringing stuff all the way from Europe and we are right next door.We need to recognise that if we can actually create a true organic market in Jamaica, it can be very profitable," she said, stressing the need for farmers to make use of the opportunity.

Highlighting the benefits she said that the price for organic produce, when compared to the conventional, ones is two to three times higher.

Gooden shared that there was a high demand for organic food in the United States and the opportunity was there also for tourists who visited and also wanted to eat organic.

"So the economic oppor-tunities that Jamaican farmers have are extraordinary," she said, pointing out that the country was not even close to tapping into the opportunities and to profit from it.

To get into the market, Gooden said farmers must first sign up with the Diaspora Task Force, expressing their interest in organic farming. They will then go through the training with Source Farm Eco Village, located in Johns Town, St Thomas and then implement the practices to see if they qualify to be organic.

Once they qualify and can prove it, she said, "the Jamaica Organic Agricultural Movement will do the certification as a US certifying body and we will sponsor all of it".

At present, she said there were five certified organic farmers in Jamaica. While they were not happy with that number, she said, "we have to start somewhere, so we are happy with the five."

Gooden who urged interested farmers to make contact with them, said the daily forum during the Denbigh Show was aimed at making more farmers aware of what they were missing out on.

The Agricultural Task Force was formed last year after the Diaspora Conference which was held in June. It was created for members and organisations within the diaspora who are passionate about agriculture. Its main aim is to support the economic viability of the Jamaican farmers through professional development and education targeted to local/export- market readiness.