US buyers impressed with agro parks

US buyers impressed with agro parks

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

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FRESH produce buyers from the United States (US), who visited the island last week, say they are impressed with the high quality of produce coming out of the agro parks.

"The parks have been impressive. There is a lot of opportunity to do business here in Jamaica. To grow the export is the goal," said Carlos Capote of JC Tropicals in Miami.

He was addressing a JIS Think Tank on August 14 to provide details about the visit of the five-member team from August 11 to 13, which was organised by the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme in the Ministry of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security.

During the three days, the buyers toured agro parks at Plantain Garden River and Yallahs in St Thomas; Amity Hall in St Catherine; Capote said the buyers have identified several produce that can be exported immediately. "We have already placed an order for guinep," he said.

He said that the importers are also interested in breadfruit, June plum, apple, mango, okra, and pumpkin. "Your pumpkin quality is excellent. The one that we have seen in the last three days are some of the best I have seen in a long time," he noted.

Capote said the buyers will be working closely with the farmers to help them understand how the international market works and "what we need to work on to make this (exports) happen as effectively as possible quickly".

He noted that while the various produce a re "beautiful" they need to be prepared for the international market in terms of packaging, quality and price.

Capote, meanwhile, commended the work being done under the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme to increase the country's exports.

Under the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-financed programme, a series of interventions are being undertaken, aimed at promoting market access by small and medium-sized farmers; ensuring the production of safe and high quality food and products; and stimulating public-private investment in agri-business value chain development.

Through the programme, production is being ramped up in the agro parks to meet the demand for Jamaican produce in the international market.

Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier, in his address at a function to welcome the five-member team to the island, 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," he 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.

Marketing consultant to the Competiveness Programmmec Dr Derrick Deslandes, in his address to the Think Tank, explained that the US$15 million programme involves key partners such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), National Irrigation Commission, Jamaica Promotion, and the Agro-Investment Corporation on board.

"The idea is to build long-term partnerships with overseas buyers to sustainably increase Jamaica's export through the agro parks," he said.

At present, there are nine agro parks across the island, and according to Dr Deslandes there are plans in place to increase the number to 21 overtime.

Meanwhile, Country representative of the IICA, Dr Elizabeth Johnson, said the IICA is proud to partner and support the Ministry of Agriculture in the operationalisation of the agro parks.

"Our role is to support the ministry and the Government to actually make the goals of the sector a reality," Dr Johnson said.

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