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Green urges local manufacturers to develop animal feeds

Published:Monday | December 21, 2020 | 12:06 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Green
Green

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green has charged local feed manufacturers to engage with local scientists to fast-track research on finding local substitutes for animal feeds, the input for which is largely imported.

The minister, who was delivering the keynote address at the donation of 20,000 baby chicks and 25 tonnes, or 1,000 bags, of broiler feed with a combined value of $4,215,000 by the Jamaica Broilers Group at its corporate suite in McCook’s Pen, St Catherine, said COVID strictures had brought this shortcoming to the fore.

“There may be events that cause significant breaks in our supply chain, there may be events that cause the closure of our borders. If that happens and all the feed that we give to our prize chickens are imported, then how do we go forward?” he asked.

LOCAL FEED GIVEN PRIORITY ATTENTION

It was therefore incumbent that the research into local feed substitute be given priority attention in the drive to truly achieve food security, the minister declared.

However, in September 2011, technical research/development manager at the Hi-Pro feed mill in Old Harbour, St Catherine, Dr Fred Hanley, shot down the idea of Jamaica going that route based on the paucity of its investment in feedstock such as corn or soya bean.

“In my opinion, it is unrealistic at this time,” Hanley declared during a tour of the facilities, admitting then that while the company had started preliminary research into using some substitutes, such as cassava, this was not likely to have the desired cost-reduction impact anytime soon.

He said there was not enough land space to make such an undertaking commercially viable, at a time when the Jamaica Broilers Group subsidiary was producing 235-240 metric tons of animal feed each year, with an estimated 110,000 metric tonnes being used in its poultry and fish operations.

“Quite frankly, producing the kind of volumes of corn and soya bean meal we need to make the feeds here would not be feasible under the present structure of acreage that’s available. It would take hundreds of thousands of acres,” Hanley insisted.

The minister, who met with about 50 importers of chicken neck and back at his Hope Gardens head office on Wednesday morning, said the nation would have to wait until next year to hear what policy direction his ministry was taking, in light of allegations of the lack of transparency and accountability by the Integrity Commission.

He said consultations were ongoing with various stakeholders to arrive at a fair and just solution.

“Clearly, what we are trying to do is to ensure that whatever system we have at the ministry is accountable, is transparent, and provides the sort of protection needed for the local industry, and also ensures that our people will always have access to affordable protein.”

Meanwhile, vice-president of Hi-Pro, Col Jaimie Ogilvie, offered this advice in striving for the desired outcomes.

“As the ministry answers the recent call for reviews of the import regime, it should do so with a view to delivering greater transparency, removal of the opportunity for corruption, and promoting the viability of local production. We are confident that the minister will take into account the importance of this sector to our national food security, the opportunity to achieve the desired overall reduction in our food import bill, and the positive economic impact and livelihood this sector provides for thousands of Jamaicans and their families.

“As a stakeholder in the sector, we stand ready to support the development of a policy framework led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries that will safeguard the local sector, promote a viable and sustainable environment for the thousands of farmers, large and small, whose families depend on chicken farming for their livelihoods and, ultimately, promote the interests of the Jamaican consumer and all who visit our shores.”