Tue | Jan 15, 2019

Use farming to strengthen 'Buy Jamaican'

Published:Friday | August 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM


It has become almost cliché that we, as a country, cannot borrow ourselves out of debt and into prosperity, but must rather, and rightly so, grow ourselves out of debt and into prosperity.

One of the complaints heard recently from some local farmers is that local manufacturers are not working with them enough to provide for more authentically made Jamaican products, so as to bring better meaning to the 'Buy Jamaican' campaign.

It is one thing to have a product wholly made in Jamaica, utilising as much local raw materials as possible, but quite another to have a product manufactured abroad for a local manufacturer or assembled locally with mostly foreign raw materials.

Naturally, conditions at times, such as shortage or inferior quality of local produce or raw materials because of drought or unreliable production, may understandably force local manufacturers to source such materials from foreign markets.

lack of expertise

Important, too, is the reality that a lot of our local farmers do not have sufficient technical expertise and modern farming technology to improve their crop yields and quality so as to properly satisfy the needs of local manufacturers. That notwithstanding, the better nutritional value and taste of some of our produce must not be discounted.

Understandably, too, are the realities of globalisation and the business realities of companies seeking to maximise profits by, among other things, taking advantage of the efficiencies in other markets, which may lead to lower labour costs, cheaper raw materials, and attractive trade incentives.

However, there can and ought to be greater synergies between the agricultural and manufacturing sectors locally, as should be with other sectors, to increase the production and availability of authentically Jamaica-made products for both the local and foreign markets.

For instance, more of our local manufacturers should seek, if even temporarily, an equity stake in some local farms, by investing in the machinery or technical expertise necessary to ensure better primary local produce and materials for the manufacturing sector.

Government-backed entities, such as the National PC Bank, should provide affordable financing and business know-how, and agencies such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority should offer technical assistance and training to facilitate improved efficiency and competitiveness.

Concomitantly, the Government should ensure the best possible enabling environment to better facilitate such synergies, by, among other things, amending local laws as necessary and manoeuvring around the strictures of the World Trade Organisation and other treaties.