More local produce to hit US markets

The goods will be sent to Nashville, Tennessee where they will be sorted, then sent via 18-wheeler trucks to Detroit, St. Louis and Oklahoma City twice a week.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Jamaica’s farmers are set to benefit from a US$29-million pilot project, which will see more local produce being sold in cities across the United States (US).

The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) has partnered with the US-based National Association of Christian Educators (NACE) to embark on the project, which will initially benefit 10 farmers in St. Ann for one year.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by both entities today during a ceremony to officially launch Farmers’ Month at the JAS’ head office, downtown Kingston.

Under the agreement, the farmers will be supplying three cities in the US with vegetables such as turnip greens, sweet potatoes, string beans, okra, cabbage, bell peppers, sweet peppers, carrots, cucumbers, Irish potatoes, corn, squash and onions.

The NACE has provided loan funds, which the farmers will be able to access through the local banks and credit unions.
The farmers are expected to start planting on May 1, with reaping to begin within 45 to 90 days. Export of the produce is slated to get underway in June.

The goods will be sent to Nashville, Tennessee where they will be sorted, then sent via 18-wheeler trucks to Detroit, St. Louis and Oklahoma City twice a week.

President of NACE, Dr Amos Jones, said through this partnership, Jamaica will become the “bread basket for the food deserts of the US.”

Pointing to the significance of this arrangement, Dr. Amos said it will enable more residents of inner city areas in the US to access fresh produce.

He noted that food market chains have been pulling out of these areas, leaving persons to travel long distances to purchase produce.

As such he said, the arrangement will foster “the development of agriculture and agri-business in Jamaica, and the supply of nutritional foods in the inner cities of the US.”

Dr Amos informed that in the initial phase of the project the produce will be sold through farmers’ markets at various locations.

“We will probably conclude that pilot aspect in about six months and that’s when we will expand this operation. We are going to refine the process so that there is no glitch in the process,” he noted.

Dr Amos said that after the pilot phase the business will also be opened up to more farmers across Jamaica.

For his part, President of the JAS, Norman Grant, said the project will provide ample opportunity for Jamaica’s farmers to develop a marketing culture to provide high value and top quality farm produce.

He noted that the JAS, through its central marketing system, the Jamaica Agricultural Society Commercial Enterprise Limited (JASCEL), will be contracting farmers to produce “A-grade” agricultural products for the US market.

“So, we will sell to them (US market) directly. We will be that intermediary between the farmers and NACE,” he said.

JASCEL was established in 1995 to implement and manage projects related to the commercial activities of the JAS.

“We are very excited about this transaction because the MoU is based on a spirit of co-operation and mutual benefit to both parties and the extended farming sector,” Grant said.

The JAS president added that he is pleased that NACE has secured the funds for farmers to carry out the operation for the next year.

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