Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
AGRICULTURE MINISTER Roger Clarke has shot down fears of Jamaicans consuming horse meat as beef, as reports surfaced in the United Kingdom recently that DNA evidence proved that horse meat was passed off in beef burgers in Builth Wells, Wales.
"We do not import beef from Europe, so that is not a consideration. The beef that is consumed in Jamaica is either produced locally or imported from The United States, Australia, South America, New Zealand, Panama and Costa Rica. So have no fear, we are not getting horse meat here," Clarke assured.
He said meat is imported under very strict international standards with collaboration between Jamaica's veterinary services and that of the country from which meat is imported.
"Before we import meat, certain protocols have to be observed and these are strictly adhered to. We do not import from countries where there have been incidents of mad cow disease or any country, which is near to them or has had any problems with meat. We adhere to strict measures to ensure the safety of our citizens."
Quizzed about the shortage of goat meat, Clarke said there continues to be a shortage of goat meat, citing that the importation of goat meat is still at a staggering 80 per cent of what is consumed locally.
"We are still importing goat meat, because the more local goats become available, the more people eat them. So we are challenged in the agriculture sector to up the ante and increase production, which is what we have been doing."
He explained, however, that the ministry and farmers of small ruminants have brought in some improved breeds and have been seeking to multiply their numbers.
"A good thing is that we have identified an area in Clarendon where a large company is preparing to come on board with significant investment in goat rearing. It will mean expansion and smaller farmers need not express any fear, as they would be a part of the expansion project that the ministry is pursuing."
Clarke said the ministry is adamant that the importation of goat meat must be significantly reduced as it seeks to contribute to the reduction in the nation's import bill.