Jamaica looking to meet fresh produce demand in US

Jamaica looking to meet fresh produce demand in US

Thursday, August 13, 2015

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EXPORTERS and agro park producers are now engaged in meetings with potential buyers from the United States as the country looks to boost fresh produce exports to the North American country.

The five-day buyer mission, organised by the Agricultural Competitveness Programme, aims to significantly strengthen, expand and advance relations between fresh produce buyers from Miami and New York and producers here in Jamaica.

Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier, who addressed the opening day of the mission at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday, said there is a huge demand for the country's traditional and non-traditional produce in the US, which is largely unfilled.

"There are some 52 items on the pre-clearance list for the import of agricultural produce into the United States and we are currently only supplying less than a quarter of the items on the list," Kellier pointed out.

He said fresh produce such as yams, dasheens, sweet potatoes, peppers, pumpkins, herbs, spices and nutraceuticals have "serious potential for export".

"These have been the star performers of our export trade and we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential they hold," he noted.

Kellier, in welcoming the mission, said the interaction with the buyers/importers will improve the country's ability to increase exports to the US.

He said the visit of the fresh produce importers is a significant step in advancing trade relations between the countries, and to boost the country's exports, in order to reduce the food bill.

He noted that while food imports dropped by some 4.5 per cent or $5 billion in 2014, when compared to 2013, the bill still remains too high.

He said that the ministry, as part of the export push, has increased import substitution through the agro parks programme, and has expanded the export markets for traditional and non-traditional produce.

"These deliberate strategies are aimed at achieving sustainability of the agricultural sector as an integral component of the Jamaican economy and to advance the development of a modern, efficient and internationally competitive agricultural sector," he said.

Kellier said the Agricultural Competitveness Programme is a critical part of the process by improving consistency of supply, increasing certification of produce and direct marketing relationships to enhance competitiveness of the country's produce.

The five-year programme, which got underway in 2010, is being funded by the Inter-American Bank (IDB) at a cost of $15 million.

It is designed to support the Government of Jamaica in restoring competitveness in the agricultural sector, through the implementation of activities aimed at promoting market access by small-and medium-sized farmers.

The three pillars of the programme are: increased production and productivity; improved food safety and global certification mechanisms; and establishment of a vibrant export platform.

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