KINGSTON, Jamaica – More than 28,000 farmers in eight Caribbean countries are expected to benefit from a CAN$20 million (US$20.2 million) initiative over the next five years.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded project, dubbed the: ‘Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages' (PROPEL) is aimed at providing an adequate and consistent supply of agricultural products to large purchasers, such as hotels and airlines within the region, by enhancing their capacity.
The project is also intended to ensure the building of a more integrated regional economy; fostering economic growth; and increased incomes to farmers.
Implementation of PROPEL is being spearheaded by the non-government organisation, Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF).
CIDA Development Officer Sekeywi Carruthers said the project, which will have its headquarters in Barbados, will be implemented on a phased basis in Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
He said the rationale for implementing the project arose out of what is deemed a “serious disconnect” between local farmers and large purchasers regarding the provision of adequate supplies of agricultural products of the highest quality, and food safety standards, which is not currently being met by the farmers.
Officials say that industry data indicate that the market for fresh fruits and vegetables within the Caribbean currently ranges between US$50 and US$100 million per annum.
However, based on the data, this is not currently being adequately met by the farmers, which has forced purchasers to import as much as 90 per cent of these supplies from outside of the Caribbean. Information emerging from across the Caribbean suggests that regional purchasers have expressed a preference for procuring products from local farmers, once quality, quantity, and food safety requirements can be met.
CIDA said this is based on the view that local procurement guarantees freshness and usage of flavours indigenous to the Caribbean, and would also be cost-effective. Further, that those buyers will be supporting the project by providing advice from the buyers’ perspective and by purchasing fresh produce from farmers’ groups supported by the project.
Parallel to this, small producers, including members of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), one of the project’s local partner organisations, will be supported to supply larger quantities of products, and ensure that higher quality and food safety standards are met.
CIDA said that pivotal to this is the establishment of a Caribbean Produce Marketing Corporation (CPMC), which will serve as a broker between the farmers and buyers, facilitating contractual arrangements for orders.
“It is intended that PROPEL’s implementation will increase the engagement of male and female small farmers and young people in the Caribbean in high value fresh produce market activities; and increase co-ordination and alignment of farmers and buyers in high value fresh produce markets of the Caribbean.”
CIDA said that in addition, the number of people employed in the agricultural sector across the region will increase by 70,000, and reach approximately 400,000 indirect beneficiaries.
It said the revenues of farmers will increase, consequent on an annual average increase of an estimated 25 per cent in the total value of fresh produce; increase in food safety; and a reduction in youth unemployment, which currently stands at 23 per cent.