Take advantage of untapped markets — Jampro president Indian products masquerading as Jamaican


Take advantage of untapped markets — Jampro president Indian products masquerading as Jamaican

Indian products masquerading as Jamaican

Business reporter

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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Diane Edwards, president of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), has called on players in the agricultural sector to ramp up production and take advantage of the markets available for exports.

Speaking last week at a virtual town hall meeting staged by the Ministry of Agriculture, she said that while markets were available and the demands great— supplies are limited.

“The opportunities are there, the markets are there and the land is there, we just need to put all these things together and become a real performance-based agricultural country,” she said.

Edwards reasoned that with 41 per cent of the country's land, according to the World Bank, being arable, only 11 per cent is currently under cultivation. “That's a huge gap that shows that we are not producing what we could be producing,” she said.

The Jampro president quoted research statistics which showed markets such as the yam market valued at some US$118 million across major countries, mentioning also that the United States (US) market for castor oil is currently valued at US$174 million— US$28 million of which is for the Jamaican black castor oil. “We are only supplying US$4 million and the remaining amounts comes from India masquerading as the Jamaican product,” she said.

She said that having been in dialogue with a major US supermarket, having some 95 outlets, it was discovered that fresh fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, papayas, avocados and pineapples were some of the main produce needed.

“It's clear where the opportunities lie. We're not investing in fruit orchards— we're not investing enough in vegetable productions although the markets are there. The market is there so it's not really a problem of the market but a problem of the supply side and about how we increase production, manage proper supply chains and deliver products to market,” Edwards indicated.

“We are in a situation where we have markets which we are not supplying. Those markets are both internal (consumers and hotels], regional and the wider export market— we have huge opportunities but just not taking advantage of them,” she added.

With Jamaica and the Caribbean having high volumes of food imports, Edwards urged players especially small farmers to become trained and formalised as a part of developing the sector and capiltalising on the opportunities available.

“There is a huge need for training our farmers — farmers are still in many ways antiquated and [though] business like enough, we really have to change the mindsets of our farmers if we want to take agriculture into the modern world,” she added.

Noting a five year agro-business strategy done by her organisation, she highlighted the issues of climate-smart solutions, irrigation, storage, distribution and an expansion of the value chains in agriculture as being among the main areas of focus.

“We need to look at how we restructure our agriculture to make it more performance-oriented and more market-driven. Agriculture has to become a business that's the only way that we can really begin to see the potential take off of agri-business in Jamaica,” she noted.

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said that with the nation's agricultural sector disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and farmers severely affected by the closure of their main distribution channel, it cannot be business as usual for the sector.

“COVID-19 has magnified the need to place agriculture on a sustainable path. We therefore need to craft a path towards ensuring food security as it cannot be business as usual in Jamaica,” he said, noting that it was this type of thinking that led to the formation of the production initiative programme.

“Under this programme, also implemented by Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) — we are focusing on specific crops with a view to increase and sustain agricultural production and to meet market demand,” the minister said.

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