KINGSTON, Nov. 24 (JIS): Jamaica’s small farmers and food producers are set to benefit from a European Union (EU)-funded project, aimed at raising the quality of food products and increasing access to export markets.
The project, being implemented under the €7.25 million Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) II Programme, was launched this morning (November 24), at the Courtleigh Hotel, New Kingston.
The initiative, dubbed ‘EPA Support to Jamaican Food Exports,’ aims to work with farmers and small and medium enterprises to lift the quality of their food products, such as sauces and spices, Blue Mountain Coffee and packed fresh produce for local distribution as well as export.
It will also help producers identify and access new markets beyond the traditional export zones.
The EPA II programme is being executed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and is focused on improving the competitiveness of specific value chains with export potential, as well as strengthening the quality and standards control environment.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, in his remarks at the launch, noted that the project seeks to increase and diversify the country’s exports and impact positively on employment, while contributing to poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas.
“We welcome the positive impact that the project will have in promoting control in the use of chemicals in agricultural production, and wide implementation of environmentally-friendly management schemes, and relevant certification,” Mr. Hylton said.
He added that the Ministry also appreciates the greater attention that is being placed on international food safety standards and access to safer foods for Jamaicans.
He noted that traditionally, the country’s trade policies have been guided by the concept of selling primary raw materials and low value finished products into the global marketplace.
“We are moving beyond that and that is one of the reasons we welcome this project. We have to build the capacity of the Jamaican companies to upgrade and to become integrated into the global value chain. We must move beyond the domestic market,” Mr. Hylton stated.
The Industry Minister further noted that the project should go a far way in addressing the country’s trade deficit, competitiveness and growth, while integrating the economy into global markets.
For his part, Resident Representative of the IFC, Rajeev Gopal, informed that over the next 25 months, the entity will work with local companies and associations to connect small and medium enterprises in Jamaica’s food sector with importers, who are interested in buying Jamaican food products.
He said the IFC will seek to build the capacity of trade associations and others to better serve their members by increasing their ability to tap into new markets; and help farmers to improve their agricultural practices through business training, risk management and technical support, aimed at improving their productivity.
“The road ahead may have challenges, but it also holds significant promise. The IFC stands ready to continue being a partner to Jamaica’s food sector, its entrepreneurs and its farmers,” Mr. Gopal said.
Head of the Delegation of the EU in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei, noted that with business reforms being undertaken, “we will see a more competitive and diversified Jamaican economy, to the benefit of all citizens.”
“The European Union will continue to assist Jamaica in achieving these objectives,” Mrs. Amadei said.