Small egg farmers crack under pressure
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The minister of agriculture speaks so eloquently on platforms about encouraging the development of agriculture in Jamaica and the importance of small and medium-size farmers that boost productivity. Yet within the ministry they sabotage this vulnerable group of persons they vowed to protect.
As a blind member of this group of farmers, I seek clarification and perspective on who stands to gain from the Ministry of Agriculture's approval and facilitation of the importation of containers of table eggs to Jamaica, while restricting the importation of layer chickens. This has made availability of layer chickens chronic, with farmers having to deposit their monies for up to a year before they can get new laying stock.
If the Ministry of Agriculture is sincere about development and growth, would it not have been more prudent to increase the importation of layer chickens and give local farmers the ability to produce more eggs for the country with the aim of exporting the excess to earn the much-needed foreign exchange? Is it not the mandate of those in power to do what is best for the greater number of persons, rather than for the few who stand to gain the most?
Is the 'Eat What We Grow and Grow What We Eat' campaign just political talk?
Can the Ministry of Agriculture explain to us how imported eggs funnelled through our liquid egg plant make it local raw material? Shouldn't local egg farmers be the ones to benefit from our new school-feeding programme?
Who protects the interests of the numerous small farmers from the few large egg producers who can drop egg prices in an instant to gain market share and customers, crippling the livelihoods of small farmers?
Who monitors the ministries to ensure that their mandates are attained with transparency?