Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Rural, Juliet Holness, wants Jamaican coffee to be served in every in tourist attraction in Jamaica, in addition to being offered to every cruise ship passenger that disembarks at the nation's ports.
Holness is appealing to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw to help make this happen as she take steps to help coffee farmers in her constituency rebound from low prices and other impediments to earning a living from the once vibrant crop.
Holness made the call during her recent contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives.
“Visitors should not only see and feel the best of Jamaica but should also taste the best of Jamaica,” Holness said. She told both Shaw and Bartlett that “We are reinforcing the supply side for coffee, but on the demand side, we continue to advocate that in order to boost demand and to create additional value chain opportunities for local farmers, Blue Mountain Coffee should be served in Jamaica”.
Holness outlined that the challenges with coffee continue to plague the constituency. These, she said include:
- a lack of transparency in the average contract pricing secured out of Japan
- the absence of an effective cooperative structure for negotiation of terms for all coffee farmers
- the use of middlemen in the existing structure for distributing government resources, intended to benefit the farmers.
The MP noted that in response to these challenges, the first ever coffee symposium was held in Jamaica and it examined all the issues in respect to coffee.
“We were able to bring farmers from East and West Rural St. Andrew, along with those from the neighbouring parishes of Portland and St Thomas to consult with a comprehensive list of other stakeholders on strategies and value-added solutions for the coffee industry,” she told the House.
“I have made recommendations for all the observed deficiencies to the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority [JACRA] and have received several assurances that they will explore utilising their knowledge of the contract prices in Japan to establish a price index mechanism to assist local farmers in determining a reasonable range of prices for their produce,” Holness added.
She said JACRA has also agreed to engage the well-established extension services of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority [RADA], to maximize the benefits from government's resources to the farmers.
Meanwhile, Holness, who is also the deputy speaker in the House of Representatives, said “We have revolutionised approaches to agriculture with creative strategies for the production of crops such as strawberries, winter vegetables, Irish potatoes and coffee.
“Irish potato has become a major economic driver for the constituency, providing sustainable income for farmers during periods of low coffee prices. With yields far outpacing the national average of 16 tons per hectare, we are generating a whopping 20.2 tons per hectare,” she shared.
And she said strawberries continue to be viable, and the programme is being revitalised with the introduction of new varieties that are developed for the tropics.
Additionally, Holness said the winter vegetable programme using higher priced, top-quality F-1 hybrid seeds, has boosted vegetable production in the constituency.
“Farmers are now clamoring for broccoli, cilantro, kale, parsley and Chinese cabbage which were never previously grown in the constituency. We introduced melon and cantaloupe as crops in the Bull Bay area with resounding success for the farmers,” she said.
And, with Dublin Castle having what the MP described as a “rich history for internationally renowned horticultural exports”, which she noted waned over time, Holness disclosed that a pilot project in flowers aimed at rejuvenating this robust industry in the hills is now underway.