Jamaica Gleaner / Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda is threatening to shake up the status quo in his ministry. Promising to exercise his ministerial authority to effect change, he slammed the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) for not providing evidence that its ‘Eat Jamaican’ campaign was working.
“Make no mistake about it. The prime minister did not appoint me minister of agriculture to maintain the status quo . He appointed me to make a difference,” Samuda stated during yesterday’s launch of ‘Eat Jamaican Month’, at the his ministry’s head office.
“I am telling you, permanent secretary, that as God made Moses, I am looking at those areas within this ministry where I can exercise my ministerial authority, but those who have failed to implement government policy must step aside and give other people who are willing to move us forward, dynamically, a chance.”
Sweet talk and promises
The minister struck a strident tone as he went after the JAS, reminding Senator Norman Grant that he would not be in charge of the agency by the time some changes were implemented. Grant cannot constitutionally return for another term as JAS president.
“I have told Norman, the president, who will not be there next year. So all the sweet talk and promises he is giving, it won’t be under his leadership. But what we do know for sure is that the time has come. It’s no use coming here every year and boasting about ‘Grow what you eat and eat what you grow’,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful catch phrase that sounds good, but it must be translated into actual proof with evidence on the table and with data that prove the programme is working.”
He added: “How much more have we produced? How much has the demand been to eat Jamaican? To what extent have we satisfied the national demand?” he said, reasoning that the aim of the programme first and foremost must be self-sufficiency.
… Grant strikes back with data Countering Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda’s chiding of the ‘Eat Jamaica’ campaign, Norman Grant, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), told The Gleaner that he was proud of the value of the programme and its impact on the economy.
“When we started the campaign 14 years ago, we said it would have been the game-changer for the Jamaican economy, and, in fact, it is the sector that has right-sided the economy,” reasoned Grant.
According to Grant, Jamaica’s food import moved from $100 million to $60 million per annum since the programme was launched.
“In the 14 years the Eat Jamaican campaign has been around, it has saved the Jamaican economy close to US$600 million,” Grant said.
He noted that in 2003, domestic crop production stood at approximately 491,000 metric tons and increased to 668,000 metric tons in 2016, by which time, Jamaica had become self-sufficient in table eggs, poultry and pork, as well as pork products, including ham.
Irish potato success
Grant said that in 2003, Jamaica was importing 95 per cent of its Irish potato for consumption but has seen a total reversal as the country now produces in excess of 90 per cent of the crop.
“The sector’s contribution to GDP (gross domestic product) has moved from six per cent to 7.5 per cent, and we are contributing over 200,000 persons to the labour force, not to mention the fact that we have generated US$25 million of export in coffee on a yearly basis, while onions are making progress,” said Grant.