Pig farmers on the ball
From the very outset, the corporate affairs manager at Caribbean Broilers, Dr Keith Amiel declared that the event would be first-class, and so it was as members of the Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association gathered at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew on Saturday night for the inaugural ball of the seven-year old organisation.
But despite the elegance of the event, representatives of the association could not resist the opportunity to defend their profession and seek to win over more farmers to the lucrative pig-rearing industry. "We are not only earners of foreign exchange, but every year we save the country millions of dollars that would have been used to import meats," said Angella Bardowell, the president of the association.
"We have to raise the image and change the perception," she added. "Farming, especially pig farming, is not a glamorous job but we have we have glamorous people in farming." Over the past few years, pork imports have been significantly reduced with Jamaican farmers now supplying 60 per cent of local demand.
The agriculture minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, lauded the pig farmers association for the advancements it has made. Since the association was established in July 2002, its membership has increased to just over 500. But Tufton said there was more for the association to do since there were more than 6,000 pig farmers in Jamaica. "We need to be bullish. We need to tell our side of the story," he said.
Tufton also encouraged the pig farmers to continue to build their capacity through research and technology while hinting that there were ground-breaking value-added initiatives on the horizon.
The ball culminated the activities to mark the seventh annual farmers' month.
2002 - 5.5 million kg produced in Jamaica
2008 - 9.1 million kg produced in Jamaica
2007 - 2 million kg imported
2009 - 737,527 kg imported
Source: Rural Agricultural Development Authority