Good and bad of agri-sector
The Editor, Sir:
I have listened and read with interest both views of the Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and would just like to add my bit.
The Ministry of Agriculture must be commended for the job it has done with the revival of the agri- sector. I can speak specifically to peppers and the success of their initiative. Last year was my most successful year with regard to pepper purchases showing a 300 per cent increase over the prior year. I must make the point that, at all times, the local supply is our number-one priority for the simple reason that the quality is unmatched worldwide and the price is cheaper relative to imports.
We must recognise, however, that Jamaica is an island that is very susceptible to adverse weather conditions. One only has to look at the period 2002-2007 where we suffered a series of devastating hurricanes and tropical depressions. Each time that happened, all or most of the pepper fields were destroyed. It is my personal experience that the recovery time for the crop after a hurricane is anywhere between six to 12 months.
spared from adverse weather conditions
Last year, we were spared from adverse weather conditions resulting in one of the best pepper crops in years. Had there been a hurricane, the situation at this time would have been completely different despite all the advances that were made by the agriculture ministry. This would have left the processors of sauces and jerk seasoning at risk as their production would have been affected resulting in their inability to service the export markets. The JEA, in my opinion, is being proactive by requesting a policy to deal with situations such as these that will/may arise in the future. The Government has, in the past, granted waivers but not on a timely basis. We need to have a situation where once a raw material is in short supply, waivers are granted for a specified period and within a reasonable time. That way we will be able to maintain our export markets and increase our sales.The Government has indicated that the agri-sector is one area that it wants to encourage and grow. Our success will be its success and will no doubt redound to the benefit of the farmers and Jamaica as a country. Let us work together to make this happen.
I am, etc.,