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Farm Up Jamaica to grow organic foods, save money

Published:Monday | October 14, 2013 | 12:00 AM
From left: Vincent Ho Sang, chief executive officer, Caribbean Food Delights; Dr Karl Rodney, Faye Rodney, both New York City business operators; Tania Thwaites, wife of attorney-at-law Daniel Thwaites; Bob De Souza, Trans Continental Shipping; and Neil Curtis, chief executive officer, Farm Up Jamaica. - Contributed

Dave Rodney, Contributor

Farm Up Jamaica, a bold and innovative agricultural private-sector programme designed to significantly boost the organic production of selected crops in Jamaica was launched last Thursday evening at the Kimberly Hotel in New York City.

Farm Up Jamaica is the brainchild of New York-based businessman and entrepreneur Neil Curtis. The initiative aims to assist farmers in Jamaica to grow more targeted organic crops to reduce the importation of some produce and to increase the export of others with the long-term objectives of stabilising the Jamaican dollar and generating employment.

The programme was launched with strong support from community leaders in New York, even with the awareness that there will be challenges such as praedial larceny and consistency of supply. But despite the possible hurdles, several attendees made it clear that this outreach is critical to the survival and stability of the Jamaican dollar.

Vincent Ho Sang, chief executive officer of Caribbean Food Delights and Royal Caribbean Bakery, noted that his company alone uses nearly a quarter-million US dollars worth of Jamaican pepper in the production of patties, and when supply of Scotch bonnet from Jamaica is unavailable, he is forced to look elsewhere.

All-out effort

"Over the years, I have watched the painful decline of the Jamaican dollar," Curtis said. "Jamaica is importing crops like ginger, pineapple and onions that can easily be grown there, and there are other crops ideally suited for export that we can grow and that we have been neglecting. Farm Up Jamaica will make an all-out effort to fix some of this imbalance through working with community groups, and the focus will be on organic products," he said.

Farm Up Jamaica Limited is committed to assisting distressed farmers in the sustainable cultivation of vacant and underfarmed lands, thereby decreasing the importation of foreign foods. The organisation will provide seeds, equipment, employees, irrigation, roadways, storage facilities, materials and labour for projects, as needed.

The company will also help farmers produce cost-effective, non-genetically modified, organic crops on a large scale, thereby improving the economic conditions and the value of the Jamaican dollar.

The organisation will closely monitor operations, ensuring that crops are planted, managed and sold to designated markets. All production will be carefully monitored and accurately reported to the Jamaican Government so that the efforts of the organisation are reflected in the gross domestic product. Farm Up Jamaica will be funded through contributions from members and organisations across the Jamaican diaspora worldwide.

Farm Up Jamaica Limited is an international non-profit organisation formed in the United States with offices in New York State and Jamaica.