Agro parks shaving food import bill
The decision by the Ministry of Agriculture to implement agro-parks in an effort to improve local food production, has resulted in a significant decline in Jamaica's food-import bill, as, since October 2014, approximately 1.7 million kilogrammes of produce having been reaped through the project.
Agriculture minister Derrick Kellier made the revelation while giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony for the 32nd annual staging of the Montpelier Agricultural Show, at the Montpelier Showground, in St. James, on Monday.
"Through these agro-parks we are engaging the best expertise, agronomic practices, and the provision of infrastructure. Over 1.7 million kilogrammes of produce have been reaped and some 1,428 people have been employed thus far," said Kellier. "...between January to October 2014, our food-import bill fell by US$34.2 million (J$3,922,911,000)."
"Two weeks ago, I was privileged to launch the ninth agro-park, the Sweet River Abattoir, located in the neighbouring parish of Westmoreland, where the Ministry of Agriculture provided grant funding of J$27 million," said Kellier. "This facility will require pigs, sheep and goats, and will provide an excellent opportunity for you, the farmers in
western Jamaica, to sell your small ruminants."
On the subject of livestock, the Minister asserted that, while there has been a recent shortage in the pork industry, Jamaica would not be importing pork to meet the current demand.
threat to local sector
"Recently, there have been some reported shortages in the pork industry, resulting in calls for us to resume importation. While we appreciate that there may be current tightness in the market, we need to resist the urge to open the floodgates of importation and thereby destroy our hard-earned achievements in the sector," said Minister Kellier.
"In the interim, we will continue to work with the industry players to get production back to normality. We will not be opening the floodgates to the importation of pork," the Minister stressed.
The agricultural show also saw the official ribbon-cutting and unveiling of the Roger Clarke Exhibition Hall, which is being constructed at a cost of J$10.5 million. The building's construction was commissioned in honour of the late Roger Clarke, a former Minister of Agriculture.
Patrons at the event were also treated to a variety of food displays from several branches of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, in St. James, and information displays from associated partner entities, including the Montego Bay Community College which a few years ago recently began offering agriculture programmes.