JMEA urges farmers to embrace technology


JMEA urges farmers to embrace technology

Says post-harvest management technologies could help to stem current waste of produce

Business reporter

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

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President of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) Richard Pandohie has urged farmers and the wider agricultural sector to become more engaged in using technology in their farming practices — this he said could alleviate much of the plight farmers now face.

Due to the recent temporary closure of the tourism industry as a result of the strangling impacts of COVID-19, many farmers have been reporting massive losses due to the unavailability of markets which has resulted in large-scale spoilage and the wasting of produce.

In an interview on Monday with the Jamaica Observer Pandohie said that “the low level of technological embracement in the agricultural space has resulted in the limited availability of post-harvest management technology”.

Outlining some of these technologies to include cold storage, flash freezing, and value-added technologies, the JMEA head said that farmers who produce mostly perishables would reap greater benefits if they were to utilise some of these equipment.

“With the sudden and extensive disruption to the market, especially the hospitality sector, there will be immediate short-term losses to the farmers, especially with the perishables. Much of what farmers are now harvesting are perishable items like tomato, cabbage, lettuce, cantaloupe, and melon. Because of an inability to store goods for long periods, this creates high levels of waste if there is no immediate consumption and as such, we can expect the waste level in the short term to increase,” he told the Business Observer.

He further stressed that if the situation is not managed properly,“losses could prevent many farmers from replanting which could create supply issues in the future”.

The JMEA boss said that while manufacturers have been trying to assist farmers in the areas of agro-processing, the type of crops produced is critical to the level of support that can be given.

“In the short term several agro-processors have been purchasing primary produce such escallion, peppers, coffee beans, and converting them to a semi-processed form — but not to finished goods, as their own demand has declined. The challenge with this is that many of the agro-processors are struggling with cash flow and will not be able to maintain the purchases from the farmers indefinitely,” he said.

Pandohie noted that the manufacturing sector currently possesses some good factory facilities which have the potential to package agricultural products with good shelf life.

“The manufacturing sector could consider canning yam and sweet potato, or anything else for that matter. Jamaica also has decent ackee canning facilities, many of which are lying idle or underutilised,” he outlined.

He urged farmers to consider these alternatives as there is so much produce which, if given the right marketing support, could have good export potential.

Calling on the Ministry of Agriculture and the other relevant agencies to play a more active role in helping farmers to get their crops to market, the JMEA president said that some existing logistical challenges also need to be ironed out.

“The manufacturing sector has underutilised distribution capacity, but the agriculture ministry could coordinate with us to look at the possibility of combining these distribution vehicles to assist farmers in moving their produce,” he said.

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