Agriculture ministry blames 'distribution bottlenecks' for issues affecting onion farmers
The Ministry of Agriculture is rejecting as "incorrect and divisive" reports that it has facilitated onion imports to the detriment of farmers.
On Thursday, the Opposition Spokesperson on Agriculture, Lothan Cousins, said the Opposition had taken note of a demonstration by onion farmers in Llandewey, St Thomas, on Monday and claims of imports displacing markets for their onion crop.
He called for transparency in the award of the import permits.
But in a statement released to the media on Friday, the ministry blamed issues in the market on "distribution bottlenecks".
The ministry said it was working to solve this situation and has mobilised the relevant stakeholders in the Potato and Onion Producers Association and others who import to ensure that the bottlenecks are swiftly eliminated.
"It is unfortunate and regrettable that in instances where distribution bottlenecks occur, they are construed by some as a deliberate attempt by the Ministry to sabotage its own production and productivity programme" it said.
The ministry explained that on average Jamaica imports approximately 10,000 tonnes of onions annually.
It said in the 2021/22 crop season, Jamaica produced roughly 40 per cent of local demand and based on the Ministry's projections for 2022/23 this is expected to increase significantly.
It added that the targeted production for the 2022/23 crop season was 400 hectares and to date approximately 310 hectares have been established.
It said the parish of St Thomas accounts for 200 hectares, which is just over 66 per cent of local production currently.
"The Ministry is mindful that during the harvesting period for local onions an abundance of imported onions within the market space will create a market imbalance. It is for this reason and the need to ensure sufficient market space for local onions that deliberate steps are taken to encourage purveyors, who would normally seek to import onions to purchase and store locally," it stated.
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