WWW.THEAGRICULTURALIST.COMSEPTEMBER 2012 • THE AGRICULTURALIST • 3
he declining trend in local food pro-duction and the spiraling food importshave been a major concern for us as Ja-maica’s food security and farmers are atrisk.Jamaica’s food import expenditurerose by over US$100 million to reachUS$930 million at the end of 2011, whileagricultural export stood at about US$100million.Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke re-cently described the situation as ‘unsus-tainable’ and pledged to commit thegovernment to “redoubling its efforts to in-crease production and productivity, whileat the time promoting improved linkagesbetween farmers, agro-processors and ho-tels.”We are encouraged by MinisterClarke’s comments, however we are ex-pecting more tangible and immediate solu-tions to grow local food productions andstop cheap imports.Minister Clarke should immediatelyreview the ministry’s method of grantingapproval for the importation of agriculturalitems including chicken meat, eggs, fish,Irish potatoes and red peas.The general policy dedicates that theseitems should be imported to meet the short-fall in local production. However, in sev-eral cases some of those produce areimported without due regard for the levelof local production.It is an open secret, depending on whois the Minister of Agriculture or politicalparty in power, only certain people aregranted permits to import these agriculturalfoods which attract very high mark-up andprofit.Minister Clarke should therefore con-sider a more open and transparent methodof granting import permits and encouragethe farmers’ organizations including the Ja-maica Livestock Association (JLA) and Ja-maica Agricultural Society (JAS) toparticipate in these lucrative business op-portunities.The Ministry of Agriculture shouldhold public hearings and consultations withthe farmers and other stakeholders beforeconsidering the importation of any fooditems. The Ministry would adopt its ownstrategy of consultations as in the case of cane and fish farmers.The current tax package of applyingGCT on eggs, selected agro chemicals andthe reclaiming of taxes on other input sup-plies are pushing up the cost of productionthus rendering Jamaica farm produce lesscompetitive.The government should thereforeplace more duty on imported foods so thatour farmers benefit instead of ‘fatteningfarmers from abroad.’The government should also focus ongreenhouse farming or any other opera-tions to foster medium to large-scale farm-ing. Our small-scale and subsistencefarmers cannot produce to meet domesticand export demand at competitive prices.Now is not the time to produce sam-ples, we need consistently high volume andquality produce.While it is important for us to pickwinners in agriculture, the Governmentmust commit vast resources in order toachieve sustainable food production.As in the case of the tourism sector,where Government allocated millions toconstruct hotels and later divest them toprivate owners, but continues to spend mil-lions on advertising and staffing overseasto promote Jamaica’s tourism products.However, the Government’s support isnot the “cure-all” solution to grow agricul-ture. The management and leadership inagriculture must do their jobs. Agricultureis not a welfare industry, we are in thisbusiness to feed people and make moneyin the process.
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We Need Real and Sustainable Solutions!
World FoodPrices Up by 10%
Continued from page 1
U.S. soybean futures hit a record high of $17.78 per bushel in trading on Thursday,while corn futures remained near the recordof $8.49 set earlier this month.A severe drought in the United States hassharply cut corn and soybean yields thisyear, while a dry summer in Russia, Ukraineand Kazakhstan has hurt wheat output.The World Bank said its experts do notforesee a repeat of 2008, when a food pricespike triggered riots in some countries.Meanwhile, the Portia Simpson MillerCabinet has established a committee to for-mulate Jamaica's response to the possibilityof a significant increase in food prices.
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just had time to read The Agriculturalist(August Issue 2012) and was taken abackby an error in a quotation from the Hon.Minister of Agriculture.Your article onPage 4, under the caption"Agriculture Ministry Pushing for SugarExpansion" reports the Ministeras saying"farmers need to lift the tonnes per acreyield from the low of 50 and 54 tonnes."While Iwas not at the function, I want tosuggest that the Minister wanted the yieldper hectare (not per acre) tomove up fromthe fifties. You see, 50 t/ac (125 t/ha)is ex-cellent cane yieldby any stretch of theimagination, and is a good standard pro-ducersshould aim to reach.You may want to correct the error in thenext issue! Too many persons are still stuckin the imperial system insteadof movingover to metric, the now world standard.
shouldalso strive touse metric units in all its publications.-Edmond Lewis<email@example.com>
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An Error in Minister Clarke’s Story!