The Food Import Bill will make another appearance at another Caribbean Week of Agriculture. It will be discussed by government ministers in the Council for Trade and Economics meeting. Officer in Charge of Trade and Economics, Caricom, Desiree Field-Ridley said the ministers have a fair idea of what they will discuss in relation to the food import bill. There have been calls for product substitution and the targeting of production.
“We have been talking about for the past number of years, how we address cultures in terms of commodities, how we work from farms right up to the agro-procession sector to increase production and competitiveness, what we are seeking to do is target over time what of the food import bill we are trying to address so we can monitor how effective we are, we also have to bring all the SPS issues there are”
Dr Deep Ford of the Food and Agricultural Organisation believes there has been a small dent in imports.
“Yes, I think they have been some tactical dents in some countries, we learned yesterday in the policy workshop, the gains that Jamaica has made particularly it was indicated that they over the last three years have not imported Irish potatoes into the country, the progress made with onions.”
Data from the FAO suggest that up to 2011, Jamaica accounted for some 21% of items imported into the region. The FAO is working in several Caribbean regions on import substitution with an aim of reducing this bill. For instance, cassava fries has taken to some markets to replace potato fries.
“I, certainly, am positive and hopeful that over time, recognising that change is fact taking place.”
The region continues to import meat, wheat rice and beans. The FAO said that the bill stood at some US4.25 billion in 2011.