Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller has given the clearest indication of the Jamaican Government's willingness to use trade policy to address the country's growing food-import bill, which last year stood at US$930 million, more than US$100 million over the previous year.
Delivering the keynote address on the final day of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show on Jamaica's 50th anniversary, she noted that, as a country, our Independence will mean little if we are unable to feed ourselves. She issued this warning: "As a Government, we are prepared to use trade policy to discourage the importation of wholesome food that can be produced here in Jamaica." However, the prime minister did not state specifics.
Charging that "agriculture must rise again", she declared that the sector would never realise its full potential without the tourism sector consuming significantly much more local produce. Lamenting that since 1962, when it contributed some 12 per cent to the country's gross domestic production (GDP), this had now fallen to 6.6 per cent. Prime Minister Simpson Miller explained that the ministries of Agriculture and Tourism are, in fact, collaborating to get more local produce used in hotels.
The prime minister also announced that a National Food Security Policy was in the final stages of preparation and would be ready for launching next month. This policy, she said, would outline specific targets for food production, while at the same satisfying our nutritional needs. In addition, it would ensure that our children have the wholesome and nutritional food necessary for their growth and development.