KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 7, CMC – The Jamaica government will launch next month the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy that outlines specific targets for food production to satisfy the nutritional needs of citizens, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has said.
She said that the policy will also ensure that school children have access to wholesome and nutritional foods, necessary for their growth and development.
“The policy will also seek to reduce our food import bill. As a government, we are prepared to use trade policy to discourage the importation of un-wholesome foods,”she said, noting however that the potential of the agricultural sector will never be fully realised without the tourism sector consuming more of the food produced in the country.
Figures released here show that the island’s annual food import bill stands at US$900 million.
“The Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture are now working with our hoteliers to put into effect specific programmes to increase consumption of local foods in our hotels. The manufacturing sector must also be encouraged to use more local agricultural raw material in their endeavours.
“We are divesting and restructuring the sugar, cocoa and coffee industries, to increase value-added, and expand our reach to new markets. A new thrust is also underway for the development of our ginger, turmeric and other exotic spices,” Prime Minister Simpson Miller said, adding ‘were cognise that we can only build agriculture on the basis of a partnership with other sectors.
She said as a result, investments and production activities must therefore involve various stakeholders including farmers, processors, exporters and traders.
“To this end, the government will make available agricultural lands to enterprising entrepreneurs who want to engage in agriculture,” she said, adding “we will continue to provide critical postharvest infrastructure to the private sector.
Over the next two years, the government says it will be spending some J$750 million (One Jamaica dollar = US$0.011 cents) to develop eight Agro-parks which Prime Minister Simpson Miller said would comprise sub-divided economic plots, leased to predominantly young farmers, and outfitted with critical infrastructure such as irrigation, post-harvest facility and tractors.
“Production in these Ago-parks will be driven by clearly defined market demands. For instance, Red Stripe has announced that they will be using locally produced cassava and sorghum as substitutes for the barley currently used to brew beer. This cassave abd sorghum will be grown in thse Agro-parks within a contractural arrangement with Red Stripe. It is these kinds of partnerships that will move agriculture forward.”
She said under the Sugar Transformation Programme, government will be making “concrete investments in improving housing and sporting facilities in sugar dependent areas”.