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Gov’t focussed on reducing food import bill

Published:Saturday | September 28, 2013 | 8:00 AM

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Horace Dalley, says the government is continuing its efforts towards reducing the country’s food import bill by US$300 million per year.



Speaking at the annual Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Customs seminar on Thursday, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, Dalley said this is being done through initiatives such as the agro parks project.



“The numbers up to December 2012 was that we import about US$1 billion worth of food. We have to incrementally reduce that, that is why we are embarking on the agro parks,” he said, while soliciting the assistance of importers in achieving this target.



Through a partnership involving the Government, farmer/investor and the private sector, 3,237 hectares (8,000 acres) of land is being engaged in the production of a number of critical crops across nine agro parks.



Three agro parks are currently in operation – Plantain Garden in St Thomas; Amity Hall, St Catherine; and Ebony Park in Clarendon. Another two parks are expected to come on stream by the end of the year.



The minister further lamented that the country is too dependent on imports of sometimes inferior, cheap consumer goods “that our people can produce and produce better.”



President of the JCC, Francis Kennedy, said his organisation is willing to work in partnership with the Government and multilaterals “to change the way in which we do business in Jamaica.”



“We have got to become as quickly and as early as possible an export-oriented country and we have to change our rules, our laws, our regulations and our legislation to achieve this,” he said.



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