Sat | Feb 23, 2019

British High Commissioner bats for local farmers

Published:Saturday | January 19, 2019 | 12:00 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Asif Ahmad

WESTERN BUREAU:

Asif Ahmad, the British high commissioner to Jamaica, has said farmers could produce more if they were being paid on time by the hotels and restaurants that buy their goods.

"I reminded the private sector that they, too, have to change their behaviour. They need to support farmers and pay on time and not keep them waiting," said Ahmad.

"Last night (January 15), I hosted a gathering in Kingston, which included the biggest buyers here in Jamaica of agricultural produce ... manufacturers, hotels owners, people in the restaurant business, and they as customers complain about the irregular supply of the variable quality control of what is grown here," added Ahmad.

The British high commissioner was speaking at the launch of the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project at the Lititz Primary School in St Elizabeth on Wednesday. The project is being implemented through grant funding from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure partnership fund (UKCIF) at a cost of £35,515,000.

The project is expected to change the lives of over 700 farmers, who will be positively impacted by the provision of irrigation water and improved access to global agricultural markets. The goal is to help the farmers of Essex Valley and adjoining communities to experience enhanced production and productivity in a socially inclusive, gender-equitable and climate-sensitive manner.

"We sincerely hope that our intervention here in Essex Valley and beyond will address some of these complaints they (hotel and restaurant owners) have," said Ahmad. They should be careful who they buy from, not from the back of a cab or from the back of a pickup truck, but from a known supplier so that you can trace where the goods came from to make sure they were not stolen."

According to the high commissioner, the private sector needs to step up its investment on logistics and supply chains to capitalise on world trends.

"I have reached out to the shipping industry to reform the way they practise shipping rates, they punished good exporters at the cost of their own country," noted Ahmad. "On our part as importers in Britain, whether we're in or out of Europe (Brexit) we will continue to be at the forefront of free trade.

"We won't change the rule about safe food. We will do everything in our power to ensure that Jamaican producers continue to enjoy preferences when they export to us," stated Ahmad. "And I look to your fellow Jamaicans, the diaspora community in the UK, some 800,000 of them, to play their role and join hands and be part of the commerce between our two countries."

albert.ferguson@gleanerjm.com