Farmers, fishers put Jamaica on top
IN THE face of incredible odds, Jamaican farmers and fishers have demonstrated a resilience and commitment in recent years that has made this country the envy of many other more developed economies, according to minister of agriculture and fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr.
He told yesterday’s launch of Farmers Month at the ministry’s playing field at Hope Gardens, St Andrew, that record production in domestic crops were achieved, even as the world and Jamaica grappled with challenges, such as the geo-political fallout from the Ukraine/Russia war, COVID-19, and other external shocks, including extreme weather conditions.
“This has been a very outstanding year for us. Never before have we seen the kind of compounded challenges that we went through in the last two to three years. We have gone through some serious times globally, not just Jamaica, but despite that we stand resolute this morning with our farmers and fishers, the stalwarts who held up the agriculture and fisheries industries,” Charles Jr declared.
“You have made it possible for our country to experience a robust recovery because the agriculture and fisheries sector contributed greatly to Jamaica being one of the only countries in the world that can say we are better off today after COVID, based on our economy, that we were right before COVID,” he added.
The minister explained that this was due in part to the fact that the ministry had been proactive in working with various stakeholders to secure food security and this was reflected in the overall production of domestic crops, which in 2022 stood at 845,508 tonnes, a 9.9-per-cent increase in domestic crop production in the third quarter compared to 770,456 tonnes in 2021.
“Remember now, this was in the hard times. This was not just something that happened coincidentally. It is the result of strategic, deliberate planning and execution,” Charles Jr explained.
For Farmers’ Month (April) the agriculture ministry will be hosting farmers’ markets in all parishes, as well as collaborating with the Social Development Commission to organise some community farmers’ markets, as well.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Christopher Emanuel, commended the farmers for their increased production and productivity, despite the ongoing challenges of increased cost of inputs and supplies, unfavourable weather conditions, praedial larceny, lack of markets and limited access to affordable financing. He vowed to maintain advocacy for better conditions on their behalf.
“The JAS remains committed to protecting the interest of the nation’s farmers as we will continue to lobby for access to the necessary resources and support, as we seek to enhance the livelihood and financial viability of our farmers in their drive towards continues sustainable agriculture,” he said.
Meanwhile, acting CEO of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Winston Simpson, said that the agency had engaged input suppliers and secured discounts of between five and 10 per cent for farmers throughout the month of April. He said RADA would be using the farmers’ markets to help farmers move any excess produce on the market, with a focus on onions, carrots, lettuce and other vegetables.
Simpson also gave a commitment that RADA’s officers will be on the ground throughout the island, as it ramps up service to its clients, with supermarkets, hotels and other outlets being engaged to help take up any surplus.