Charles Jr calls for calm amidst food crisis concerns
Pearnel Charles Jr

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, is warning against prematurely raising alarms over a potential food crisis and has instead called for a calculated approach amidst growing concerns for the country’s food supply chains.

Charles Jr issued the warning in a statement early Thursday. It follows concerns raised by world leaders and international media last month over a looming global food crisis and food hoarding in the wake of supply issues which started with the novel coronavirus pandemic but has been exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war.

However, Jamaica’s agriculture minister said the country was not currently experiencing a food crisis and said he did not anticipate one in the near future.

READ: Food crisis looms

READ: Jamaica is not experiencing a food shortage

“It is essential for us to be strategic, aware and careful in our utterances about the potential crisis as that could lead to premature uncertainty that overshadows our focus on being prepared. In times of challenge, the right approach is to be steady and deliberate,” the minister said, adding that the country recently recorded the highest levels of domestic crop production.

Charles Jr, however, acknowledged risks that he said will impact the inflow of goods, particularly those used in the manufacturing sector.

“We have been working with stakeholders to identify alternative sources of supply while also advancing our own research and development of alternatives for animal feed, fertiliser and food options. So far, viable alternatives have been identified for critical inputs which will be affected through supply chain challenges,” he shared

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has bolstered its efforts to attain sustainable food security by employing a strategic and deliberate approach to continue to invest in the sector, boost production and improve resilience to potential shocks or disruptions that may arise.

“I am careful to balance the reality of our positive and high production levels with the heightened concerns. We must not displace our current reality. Our reality in Jamaica is that over the past year, we significantly increased our domestic crop production from 697,679 tonnes in 2020 to 770,456 tonnes in 2021, reflecting a growth of 10.4 per cent for the period. Additionally, during the first three months of 2022, domestic crop production continues to increase, recording a 10.5 per cent increase over the similar period, reflecting 212,000 tonnes - the highest level recorded for any individual quarter,” Charles explained.

The ministry said it intends to sustain these gains to develop a long-term approach and ensure a stable foundation for food security in Jamaica.

“Our strategy is focused on prioritising availability, affordability, consistency and to ensure the improved nutrition of the Jamaican populace. Within this context, the ministry is advancing initiatives that will focus on feed, fertiliser, other agricultural inputs and the environment.”

The minister said further steps are being taken to ensure the sustained availability of food through increased production levels and expanding incentive programmes.

“The ministry has also intensified the role of the Research and Development Division to strengthen our local seed supply, going beyond genetic preservation to multiplication through a partnership with the private sector, as we continue to ensure the improved nutrition of the Jamaican populace and diversifying affordable options for agriculture inputs such as fertilizer and animal feed.”

Charles Jr noted that several projects are underway at the Bodles Research station, including the establishment of fodder banks using high protein local material which will also serve as a model for replication across the country to enhance to supply of feed material to farmers at a cost.

Furthermore, the ministry is seeking to leverage bilateral relations with Nigeria and deepen ties with the Kingdom of Morocco to source key ingredients for fertilizer manufacture such as potash, phosphates and nitrogen, he said.

“As we collectively invest in our future, let us continue to strengthen the production capabilities of our agricultural sector and attain food security through our food heroes as we eat what we grow and grow what we eat,” the minister added.

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