Manufacturers call for greater linkages with agriculture to lessen food import
HOWELL...we are actually indialogue with the Ministry ofAgriculture and other elements,as we look to see how the JMEAand the ministry can deepenpartnerships to address some ofthese issues and ensure that wehave food security in Jamaica(Photos: Joseph Wellington)

President of the JMEA John Mahfood said that while manufacturers are amenable to this objective, more needs to be done in forging greater partnerships with the agriculture sector on which producers rely for raw materials.

“A big part of our imports are agriculture based and the sector has consistently declined. We have traditionally only produced banana and sugar and we have not typically produced other agricultural products that are exportable and other products that can be used as raw material and the government has a real challenge,” he said in responding to questions at a recent Jamaica Observer Business Forum.

Mahfood said that while there were real opportunities for export substitution, there needs to be greater levels of consistency and supply of key raw materials.

“A lot of what we make, we have to import like ginger — we import like a US$1 million in ginger a year, Jamaica used to produce a lot of ginger and use to be the premiere quality producers,” he said as he noted the current breakdown of supply and the challenges that exist in getting adequate and quality raw materials for production.

He said with the novel coronavirus pandemic along with rising freight costs exposing the need for more competiveness in the supply of goods, Jamaica by virtue of its geographic position could benefit greatly from increased exports; but must first fix supply challenges.

With the country's food import bill now averaging over $US 1 billion annually, chief executive officer (CEO) of the GraceKennedy Group Don Wehby has already indicated that his company is committed in helping to reduce the bill which he said could positively impact balance of payment and exchange rate issues.

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) through its recent 25-in-5 initiative is also seeking to lessen the region's food import bill by 25 per cent over the next five years. The regional body, in achieving this goal, said that through developed frameworks it will galvanise the support of multilateral action from private sector and international donor partners particularly in the areas of policy intervention, institutional strengthening, investment, and sector financing. This, as it seeks to attain uninterrupted supply chains for key products and greater opportunities for import substitution.

Executive director of the JMEA, Simara Howell, in indicating her organisation and its member companies commitment to reducing food imports, said that the entity, through a recently signed partnership with the agro-invest corporation (AIC), will help local producers and exporters to create better linkages between agro-processors and farmers.

“We are trying to make the linkages locally to ensure that we try to get our food import bill slashed in half as that is a whole food security issue of which the pandemic has driven home that point. We are actually in dialogue with the ministry of agriculture and other elements, as we look to see how the JMEA and the ministry can deepen partnerships to address some of these issues and ensure that we have food security in Jamaica,” Howell said.

MAHFOOD...a big part of ourimports are agriculture-basedand the sector has consistentlydeclined. We have traditionally onlyproduced banana and sugar andwe have not typically producedother agricultural products that areexportable and other products thatcan be used as raw material

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