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Feasibility of 'Eat Jamaican' campaign depends on public support, says FAO official

Published:Saturday | May 28, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Patrons at the final 'Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow' campaign held at the Portmore HEART Academy recently, where a farmers' market was also in session. - Photos by Christopher Serju
A man checks his money before moving to make more purchases at the farmers' market.
Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton appeals to Jamaicans to make the healthier choice by supporting local farmers.

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

PORTMORE, St Catherine:

IN HIS report for the first quarter of this year, Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton reported that domestic crop production had increased by 20 per cent over the corresponding period for 2010, with the overall increase settling at 14 per cent. However, speaking with The Gleaner at the final roadshow held at the Portmore HEART Trust/NTA facility in St Catherine this week, where a farmers' market was in session, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) representative in Jamaica, Dr Jerome Thomas, had this warning:

"We anticipate that there will be increased production and we don't want to have farmers just having increased production because, if there is no increased uptake, there will be frustration. So we want to not only have increased production but also enhanced consumption."

He said that by bombarding the public with media promotions from a number of angles the aim was to sensitise consumers so they would go beyond sampling of products at the shows and seriously think about buying local produce when they go shopping.

Meanwhile, the agriculture minister noted that by supporting local farmers Jamaicans were sure to be eating healthier for a lot less than if they continue to support foreigners. "The farmer who is in St Elizabeth or St Ann or St Catherine, by the time he reaps, it reaches market within days, probably a week at most. And fresh is healthy, fresh is better for body, mind and soul," he appealed. "When the farmers come out and carry the produce to you, you get better prices generally and that's a good thing. So you save in your pocket. So you get fresh produce, you support the farmers and you save in your pocket - those are three compelling reasons to support local production," the minister added.

However, Portmore resident Terryann who has been supporting the farmers' market was not impressed by Thursday's prices.

"I mean (yellow) yam for $70 at a farmers' market is expensive. They are not cheap either, because Irish potato was $70, sweet potato $50. I don't think the prices are particularly cheaper than the regular Coronation Market on Saturday morning," she said.

Despite this, she had bought items including pumpkin and mangoes.