Banking on local farmers for national food security

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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Quality should trump price when it comes to national food security, according to Jamaica's national champion farmer Martin Zsifkovics.

He was speaking recently with World Bank Country Manager for Jamaica, Galina Sotirova on issues affecting the ability of local farmers to realise their full potential and help grow the local economy.

“Today, the real issue is that we still do not have real partnerships between hotels and local farmers in a way that benefit all parties. It cannot be just about the cheapest price, but about the quality of the food and the reliability of the supply chain. Simply chasing prices without proper background checks only helps the farm thieves,” he said.

Also discussesd was viable crop insurance as a real hedge against external shocks such as natural risks (floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes), and the long-term adverse effects of climate and socio-cultural hazards such as praedial larceny (farm theft).

Another topic was how to fine tune the mechanism to ensure more seamless linkages between Jamaican farmers and the hospitality industry. Zsifkovics indicated that he became a farmer in response to the clear gap he identified in the steady supply of high-quality Jamaican produce while working as a chef at a north coast hotel.

Zsifkovics also pointed to the health risks associated with the lack of quality control that often drives markets.

Sotirova reiterated the commitment of the World Bank as a long-standing development partner to continue supporting agriculture as a lynchpin in securing sustainable economic growth.

An Austrian-born Jamaican citizen, Zsifkovics operates an 80-acre farm, AustroJam, in south St Elizabeth with about 40 acres under cultivation. AustroJam focuses on supplying fruits (watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydew) to the local accommodation sector. For the second year running, he has used his platform as champion farmer, along with his own resources, to highlight the issues of local farmers, many of whom have limited access to policymakers.

This year Zsifkovics was also named purveyor of the year by the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association.

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