Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
TWICKENHAM PARK, St Catherine:HEAD OF the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica, Paola Amadei, has charged the Jamaican Government to ensure that the target audience reaps the benefits from a $10-million project being funded by the EU to resuscitate the country's aquaculture industry.
"I wish this will not become another paper. Too often that happens with all the best intentions we get the best experts in the field and they write a paper without really any of it affecting the beneficiaries, which doesn't make sense," he told a validation workshop at the Farmers Training Centre in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.
Jamaica is a beneficiary of the €30-million ACP Fish II Programme funded by the EU to strengthen fisheries management, improve food security and alleviate poverty in 78 ACP countries. It comes at a time when the local industry is experiencing a serious decline in aquaculture products, with last year figure of 1,149 tonnes well below the 2006 high of 8,019 tonnes.
Meanwhile, Roger Clarke, minister of agriculture and fisheries, gave an assurance that the Government would ramp up its efforts to resuscitate this once-vibrant industry. He pointed to the ban on the importation of whole tilapia - fresh or frozen. While admitting that there was a breach of the waiver for tilapia fillet for the quick-service restaurants and hotel market, with some of the produce finding its way on to the open market, he noted that steps had been taken to prevent any recurrence.
creating food security
The agriculture minister insisted that the funding from international donors would be used to ensure that aquaculture plays a pivotal role in creating food security, creation of employment, import substitution and the saving foreign exchange. For its part, the Jamaican Government is committed to providing the framework to ensure that the subsector derives maximum benefits from the external assistance.
"In this financial year, some $22 million will be allocated to undertake a marketing and promotion drive, training and capacity building of fish farmers groups. Additionally, some $17 million will be allocated to rehabilitate the hatchery/nursery facility at our aquaculture branch to provide quality seed stock for the industry," the minister divulged.
Warning of a revolution of the aquaculture subsector, he said Hill Run in St Catherine had been identified as a location for the establishment of an aquaculture agro park fitted with the requisite infrastructure to ensure sustainable production. In addition, he said the ministry would enforce more stringent measures to ensure that only wholesome fish products are imported into Jamaica.
With the formalities out of the way, guests relocated to the lawns of the training centre where they were treated to tilapia prepared in a range of culinary styles by chefs from the Jamaica Culinary Federation, Longville Farms, Rainforest Foods and Dr Marc Panton, chief technical director in the agriculture ministry.