MONTEGO BAY, St James — Junior Industry, Investment and Commerce Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams says that the staging of food festivals hold great potential for the country's agro-processing industry.
"By this, we are talking about activities that add value to agricultural materials and which can include a vast array of Jamaican fruits and vegetables, many of which are now being under-utilised and wasted," the Minister said recently at the official launch of the Montego Bay Jerk Festival held at the Wexford Court Hotel in the resort city.
She stated that the food processing industry is important, not just for its capacity to facilitate diversification, but also for its potential to create linkages with small and medium enterprises and to penetrate export markets.
She noted that total food exports for January to December 2011 amounted to roughly US$134 million, indicting the industry's export potential.
"Given the growing global demand for ethnic foods, this is not only an opportunity to grow much faster than we have in the past, but also to create niches and to diversify and upgrade our food-processing industry," she stated.
Endorsing the staging of the annual jerk festival, Ffolkes -Abrahams said that in addition to providing entertainment for visitors and locals, the event linked with other crucial sectors such as the creative industries, tourism and agriculture, among others.
"This festival, therefore, gives us a sense of identity and significance. It provides us with an excellent family-based platform to celebrate our multi-cultural heritage and most of all, to sample the multitude of unique smells, tastes and flavours that have made this festival an attraction to so many people," she added.
Mayor of Montego Bay and Chairman of the St James Parish Council, Glendon Harris, congratulated the organisers of the festival, noting that they have created an event, "which offers advantages for the city and provides avenues to promote economic activities."
The Montego Bay Jerk Festival will be held at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex on August 1, 2012 under the theme: 'Come Lets Celebrate'. It will showcase Jamaica's culinary excellence and musical heritage.