Building a strong and resilient agriculture and fisheries sector

THE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is advancing a strategic plan to ensure food security for our nation by working with all stakeholders in conjunction with the determined and unwavering efforts of our farm heroes: men and women, young and old.

The ministry has developed a well-defined comprehensive strategy geared towards building a stronger and more resilient agricultural sector, and implementation of this is ongoing. This plan includes boosting production, from which we have already gained positive results.

These results showcase the highest recorded levels of production in domestic crops in the last year, with domestic crop production increasing from 697,679 tonnes in 2020 to 770,456 tonnes in 2021, reflecting a growth of 10.4 per cent for the period. Further, we documented an improved rate of growth in domestic crop production in the first quarter of 2022, which continues to increase and shows a 10.5 per cent increase over the similar period for 2021 with 212,000 tonnes being produced, the highest level recorded for any individual quarter.

Notwithstanding this positive performance we acknowledge the very real impact of the combination of COVID-19, the conflict in Europe and climate change, which have also led to unprecedented uncertainty and understandable concerns and fears — both locally and globally.

In these challenging times our role as Government is to implement credible and deliberate programmes to protect the country from the possible negative impacts, and to develop a sustainable level of self-sufficiency to fully secure the welfare of our people, enabled by the creative and innovative use of all available resources.

We have demonstrated an ability to increase production and we must now maintain the positive trends and ensure food security for our people.

I share a few of the notable activities of the last year:

•Highest level of domestic crop production recorded, with over 770,000 tonnes.

•First quarter of 2022 saw the highest level of domestic crop production, quarter to quarter, ever in our history.

•Onion production is increasing. The highest level of production of onions ever – 1,757 tonnes of onion — was produced in 2020 while 2,355 tonnes was produced in 2021, representing an increase of 34 per cent.

•Expansion programme for fish ponds, to meet increasing Tilapia demand.

•Expansion of Irish potato production — 14,685 tonnes were produced in 2020 while approximately 16,751 tonnes were produced in 2021, which represented an increase of 14.1 per cent over the 2020 production levels.

•Agro park programme continuously expanding acreages under production in vegetables and now orchard crops (mangoes), with lands leased to large and small investors alike including youth and women.

•Poultry production increased over the last year, with 123,636,116 kilogrammes being produced in 2020 while some 125,191,555 kilogrammes were produced in 2021 — an increase of 1.3 per cent over 2020 production levels and growing.

• Egg production also saw increased demand for this additional and affordable source of nutritious protein. Approximately 208 million eggs were produced in 2020 while approximately 220 million eggs were produced in 2021, reflecting an increase of 5.6 per cent.

•Major programme of climate change mitigation and adaptation, to build sustainability and resilience, is now being executed through the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA).

•Continuation of programmes focused on our “Eat What We Grow, Grow What We Eat” campaign — a whole-of-society approach to securing our food supply.

Every Jamaican can and should be involved in farming. Whether in your backyard, church, school or community, we all have a role to play in ensuring the food security of our nation. I have started my own backyard farm, teaching my children, and I encourage all of us to do the same.

Remember Jamaica, we need a calm, cool, calculated approach by using our steadied hands in the best possible way for the challenging times ahead. Chaos and hysteria will not help us; we have to be strategic. We have a plan, and we are agile in being able to respond to issues as they arise. We will roll out that plan to the benefit of the people of Jamaica whom we continue to serve with honour, diligence, and respect.

Pearnel Charles Jr is minister of agriculture and fisheries, and Member of Parliament for Clarendon South Eastern. Responses to: minister@moa.gov.jm

Pearnel Charles Jr

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