The decision to restrict the importation of carrots, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, butternut squash, sweet pepper, eggplant and cabbage, for the month of April, came in the wake of a bumper harvest of local crops which forced officials within the ministry yesterday to revisit the signing strategy currently in place.
A high-level meeting comprising Minister Hilson Baptiste, Permanent Secretary Sharon Peters, a representative from Central Marketing Corporation (CMC), Extension Officers Owolabi Elabanjo and Sereno Benjamin, was convened to discuss the development.
Minister Baptiste expressed concern about the current situation as it relates to the signing and called for an “urgent revision.”
According to Baptiste, previously, some importers requested the signing of several licences for an extended period of time for various produce. However, he said this practice must come to an end. He instead recommended that “all licences should be valid for one month … as the ministry carries its monthly assessment of what commodities our farmers are able to produce in abundance.“
The agriculture minister explained the move is part of a wider food security initiative to promote and support the purchasing of locally grown products.
He encouraged importers of fresh vegetables to contact CMC at 462–1491, which serves as the marketing agency for agricultural produce.
To this end, the ministry has put mechanisms in place to assist farmers to boost production to complement its Food Security Programme and Peters has expressed satisfaction at the level of production, so far.
Last year, the ministry imported approximately 16 million pounds of vegetables.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)