Diane Edwards is the president of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro). Last week, she 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 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.
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.