In a statement, Wright says nowhere in the $25 billion package announced by government is a clear strategy outlined to ensure the nation’s food security during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
He is encouraging the government to identify the key food items that are important to our national food security, which can be produced locally and in collaboration with the farmers and private sector and immediately embark on a path to increase production and distribution of these crops.
The current supply chain must be reviewed with a view to identify the points of disruption and take steps to improve the production flow, establish appropriate cold and dry storage and invest in further food-processing technologies of these products.
He said the knee-jerk injection into the sector with no strategic plan for sustainable food security will not go a far way in ensuring a steady supply of food to the country.
The Shadow Minister said Jamaican farmers have long suffered the indignities of neglect while struggling to produce much-needed crops against an avalanche of importation of agricultural items.
Mr. Wright is calling on the government to develop and implement immediately a stimulus plan that is specifically geared towards protecting the local agricultural sector; this plan must go beyond the short and medium term; it must anticipate the next crisis.
Mr. Wright said that the current approach taken by the government is inadequate and does not clearly outline a strategy to open local markets beyond tourism nor does it entails a vision of an aggressive export strategy.
The Shadow Minister said farmers must be assisted in ways so that they can significantly increase production to permanently plug any gaps that will be created due to lack of importation.
“A plan must be developed to rapidly substitute with local production the volumes that may not be available for import in the immediate aftermath of the crisis,” Mr. Wright said.
The agriculture spokesperson said private partners must be identified and brought on board to invest in agriculture and expand the current levels of funding for broad-scale production.
“There is still great potential in the value-added industries. It is full-time for us to stop importing concentrates and other raw materials when we can produce these things right here and create jobs for our people,” Mr. Wright said.
He said Jamaica cannot continue to depend on other countries to produce food that we can produce for ourselves.
“It is unacceptable that our farmers are currently feeding their products to animals. This is a symptom of the lack of planning to store and process these products.”
The government as part of its response to this pandemic should urgently outline interventions that support the vital MSME’s involved in the agricultural food supply chains that are most at risk and provide low interest funding and grants where possible.
“This crisis also underscores the need for the government to resist the temptation to take arable agricultural lands out of production for other uses but to invest in irrigation and other technologies to ensure that as a country’s food is secured for generations to come.” Mr. Wright said.
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