There is no shortage of food, says minister

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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ACTING Minister of Agriculture Derrick Kellier says there is no shortage of food on the island, despite the drought the country has been facing over the last couple of months.

Kellier, who was addressing a media briefing at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Kingston, yesterday, said consumers should not be swayed by "sensationalism" or dramatic price hikes by vendors.

However, in southern parishes such as Manchester and St Elizabeth, which account for 40 per cent of domestic agriculture, the drought has severely affected crop production. In addition, parishes such as Clarendon, Portland, St Mary and St Thomas, which are also significant producers of crops, have also been affected.

Meanwhile, a report from the Rural Agricultural Development Agency showed that approximately 16,400 farmers have suffered from the drought.

Kellier, however, maintained that the island was not facing a food shortage.

"... What we want the consumers to know is that there is no shortage at this time, so you must not succumb to that philosophy", Kellier said.

The minister stressed that Government cannot dictate prices, so it's the consumers with the purchasing power who should refuse to pay high prices for produce.

"...There is no shortage, so you can't jump from $80 a pound to $ 200 a pound in a matter of two weeks; that is really an exploitation of consumers," Kellier said.

He added that although 1,600 hectares of crops, including pastures, valued at almost $1 billion has been destroyed, the total arable land under production in the country is approximately 200,000 hectares.

The country, said Kellier, has enough supplies of tubers, bananas and plantains, while there was enough Irish potatoes to satisfy demand for the next two months.

He said that it is traditional that towards the end of the year Jamaica imports minimal quantities until the reaping of the fall crop begins in December.

On the other hand the minister said that crops such as vegetables will be more susceptible to the impact of the drought and that the agriculture ministry's projection is that there will be a 20 per cent fall-off in production for the July-September quarter.

He said that fortunately this happens to coincide with the low demand period in the hotel industry, which is a major consumer of these products.
— Javene Skyers




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