The Government has formatted a national food security strategy to counter the potentially crippling effects of rising prices triggered by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Charles Jr explained that the strategy, called ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’, builds on existing policies and programmes of the ministry with a major thrust to drive Jamaicans to eat more wholesome and nutritious foods and employ innovation, technology, and research to grow products.
He said the Administration was also addressing the challenges being faced by local farmers from the increasing costs and unavailability of fertilisers by way of a multifaceted approach that includes the strengthening of relations with the Kingdom of Morocco, which has already donated 24,000 bags of fertilisers, valued at $122 million, to Jamaica as a gift to local farmers, especially at this time of high fertiliser prices.
“Through this relationship we intend to capitalise on all aspects embedded in this technical cooperation agreement,” he said in his presentation to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate.
Other approaches include:
* Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture has sought to engage the Nigerian Government to explore options of sourcing more fertiliser, especially given the recent opening of one of the largest fertiliser manufacturing plants in the world;
* Under a $50-million support programme, the ministry is strengthening collaboration with local producers of organic fertiliser to enhance the supply of organically produced material, especially for the growing of vegetables across the island;
* The ministry, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, will be expanding its training programme on composting to encourage farmers to use local materials and farm waste to compost and reduce their reliance on chemical fertilisers; and,
* The ministry is working with local fertiliser suppliers to guide research for the development of blends that will see a more efficient use of fertilisers, and will reduce the cost to farmers while increasing productivity. The blends to reduce the cost to farmers will be subsidised to the tune of $100 million by the ministry.
Turning to the treatment of animals and threat of praedial larceny, Charles Jr said that critical to the holistic development and modernisation of the Jamaican livestock industry is the National Animal Identification and Traceability System (NAITS), which was implemented in 2015 with the passage of the Animals (Diseases and Importation) (Marking of Bovine Animals) Regulations, 2015.
He said that, to date, 57,196 head of cattle, of an estimated 75,000 (based on the 2007 census), have been tagged.
“I am pleased to inform you that, as of September 1, 2022, there will be full enforcement of the Animals (Diseases and Importation) (Marking of Bovine Animals) Regulations, 2015. This will require all cattle to be identified with ear tags and corresponding passports. We therefore urge all cattle farmers to have their cattle tagged,” he said.
Charles Jr said that, for the 2022-2023 period, his ministry intends to continue implementation of this programme with the tagging of at least 2,000 cattle per quarter, as well as expanding the programme to include other species of animals.
The ministry has already procured the genetic analyser needed to conduct the relevant testing to make the programme viable and to facilitate implementation of testing. He said that the ministry will be undertaking a $6-million upgrading work to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory over the next three months.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness/public health/meat inspectors must be brought on board to ensure that all bovine for human consumption are identified with a valid NAITS ear tag in each ear and a matching valid [original] cattle passport presented,” Charles said.
“All stakeholders, including the Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit/JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force], Ministry of Health, public health inspectors, and operators of slaughter facilities will be re-engaged and made fully aware of the ministry’s thrust to ensure the law is fully enforced,” he said.