How Jamaica lost its dairy industryThursday, September 16, 2021
I can recall as a child the delivery of fresh cow's milk to our home in Mandeville. In fact, a cooling station for milk was situated at Bonito Crescent in the town.
While companies like fruit juice manufacturer Trade Winds Citrus Limited (TWCL) has re-entered the dairy industry in 2020, a 2011 Pulitzer Center article, titled 'Jamaica: Fresh Milk Down the Drain', tells of the demise of Jamaica's dairy industry. It was in 1992 that the World Bank required Jamaica to lift local tariff as a condition for granting a loan, which led to the flooding of the market with imported, heavily subsidised (irony) powdered milk. The destruction of the local dairy industry weakened the long-term food security of Jamaica.
Recently, Lavoi Griffiths highlighted the demise of the Ortanique fruit in Manchester ( Jamaica Observer, September 1, 2021). That parish was the leading cattle scientific research centre outside of Bodles Agricultural Research Station in St Catherine. The Hartham property where the Ortaniques were cultivated was also the parish's leading dairy farm, while in Mile Gully the Shield's family operated a cattle beef farm. Former principal of the Mile Gully High School, Rev Ulit Brackett, had hoped that the school's focus “on cattle rearing and grass production, as two economic activities [would be] significant to the development of Mile Gully”. He also said that, “Beef cattle has been a great source of income for the people of north-west Manchester because of the experiment and research that have been done at Grove Place, and out of that, people have learnt how to raise cattle in a scientific way, and this has helped the farmers of the community” ( Jamaica Information Service newsletter, 2001). However, it is no longer so due to the demise of Grove Place.
Grove Place was in the south of Manchester, where former chairman of the Jamaica Red Poll Cattle Breeders Society, Dr Karl Wellington, OJ, a former student of Dr T P Lecky, worked along with two of the world's leading researchers on grass used for feeding cattle — Sam Motta and Dr Dinsdale McLeod.
In the mid-90s, the property was turned over to Alcan Kirkvine Works to have its bauxite mined and the lands restored for agricultural use, especially agricultural research. Alcan has since shuttered its doors, leaving the land unmined and killing the research capacity of the facility.
While the Government collected taxes for bauxite mined from the parish, the citizens of Manchester suffered a greater loss of its status as Jamaica's leading beef cattle breeding and husbandry centre for research, scientific development, and technological achievement of national importance for providing food supply, creating employment, improving the ecology, saving, and earning foreign exchange.
Our nation and parish have forfeited the developmental work which resulted in the creation of the Jamaica Red Poll breed as an important contribution to the national objective of increasing the efficiency and integrity with which agricultural land could be used in deriving lasting economic benefits for the nation.
Dudley C McLean II