Tuesday 1 December, 2020

Gov't sees opportunities in agriculture after COVID-19

Having spent $240 million to move over one million pounds of excess produce from farmers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, government is relying on the agriculture sector to help the country break out of the current economic slump.

Speaking recently in a virtual forum on the Jamaican economy, Floyd Green, Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries said the pandemic has spurred the private sector into creating new distribution channels for farm produce and developing new value added products.

“There are opportunities here (in the agricultural sector) and there are problems that need to be solved and that people can make profit from," Green said. 

The state minister noted that the government had implemented a stimulus package of $240 million to buy excess agriculture produce from those farmers who lost their markets, largely from the closure of hotels as a result of the pandemic.

“Thus far we have moved over a million pounds of produce,” Green stated.

The state minister said distribution of produce was a historical problem, but new distribution networks had been successfully developed since the pandemic.

 “Moving forward we are going to keep some of those new distribution networks we have perfected during COVID-19,” Green said.  “We will continue to work with our private sector to additional storage capacity and to develop new product lines”. 

He mentioned a ginger pineapple drink developed by Tru Juice and Salada’s crystallised tomato juice that can be remixed in drinks as examples of new products developed since the onset of the pandemic.

Minister Green said the new agriculture budget to the ministry had been increased by $1 billion which will be used to stimulate the agriculture sector. 

He noted however that the budget for farm roads had been slashed because of the $128 billion fallout in government revenue because of the pandemic. 

The virtual forum was put on by Island Innovation, an organisation that works with diverse rural and island communities around the world to develop solutions for sustainable development and prosperity.

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