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Grant: Crop production must reach one million tonnes to attain food security

Published:Monday | January 26, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Richard Mitchell, Staff Reporter

The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) hopes to facilitate an increase in the country's agricultural production so that the country will produce enough food to meet its needs by 2020.

Speaking at the inaugural JAS national agricultural, food security, and economic summit on Thursday at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, president of the JAS Senator Norman Grant said that the sector would have to increase domestic crop production from 615 tonnes per annum to one million in order to achieve food security.

To achieve the target of one million tonnes per annum, the number will be attainable if agricultural production grows by an average of 10 per cent per annum over the next five years.

Jamaica currently imports approximately US$1 billion worth of food annually to meet the demands of the population.

During the 10-year period 2003 to 2013, the Jamaican agricultural sector grew by two per cent per annum.

Grant said there is need to increase production in beef, sheep, and goat meats.

"We are self-sufficient in our poultry and our pork," Grant said. "But we currently have approximately 50,000 heads of cattle; we need to get up to 250,000 heads. We have currently 700,000 heads of goats, but to be self-sufficient, we need to get up to three million. We only have 7,000 heads of sheep, but we need 100,000 to be self-sufficient."

Grant noted that the agricultural sector recorded growth of 13 per cent and 18 per cent in the first and second quarters of 2014, respectively. However, the third quarter recorded a decline of approximately 30 per cent due to what he characterised as "the worst period of drought experienced by Jamaica in close to a century".

"At the end of September, Jamaica's (food import) bill was US$708 million, US$14 million less than it was in 2013. That is a tremendous achievement that we must celebrate," the president asserted.