Wed | Jun 3, 2020

Gov’t spending $240 million to buy excess produce from farmers

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 3:28 PM
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries, J.C. Hutchinson - File photo

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries J.C. Hutchinson says $240 million will be made available immediately to purchase excess produce from farmers.

Addressing a media briefing today on the Ministry’s COVID-19 response plan, Hutchinson said farmers with excess produce have been identified.

In another move, he outlined that purveyors would utilise the existing collection, storage and distribution mechanisms to purchase produce from farmers and move into the marketplace including large purchasers and communities and workplaces.

Hutchinson said the Ministry has identified several buyers and distributors with access to cold storage facilities who he says have indicated their willingness to continue the purchase of agricultural produce from farmers as well as assisting to buy produce at the farm level and distribution to final markets.

According to him, initial discussions have been held with purveyors such as Glastonbury Purveyors, MarketFresh Ltd., and Ansel Golaub and Sons, who have indicated their willingness to utilise their systems in a public private partnership agreement to assist the agricultural sector.

He said the Ministry, through RADA, is putting systems in place to support the movement of produce to the factories.

More details below on the Ministry’s plan:

* Provided and are intensifying assistance to those farmers to get their supplies to the main markets;

* Asked farmers with produce for sale to contact their Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA)  parish offices and the parish marketing officers, whose contacts have been circulated and we will continue to circulate. Farmers can also contact the Agri-Linkages Exchange at 876-970-0838;

* Met with and received commitments from major supermarkets to purchase additional volumes of produce. MICAF and RADA marketing officers have been working with purchasing managers to identify sources of produce and to create and support the links between the farmers and these buyers.

* Met with agro-processors who, where possible, have increased their intake of items like pepper and scallion to be processed into mash.  Juice makers have also committed to, where possible, utilise more local products in their juices, as well as to process for storage. 

* The Ministry, through RADA, is putting systems in place to support the movement of produce to the factories and maintain throughput.

* Identified several buyers and distributors with access to cold storage facilities who have indicated their willingness to continue purchase of agricultural produce from farmers as well as assisting the process of purchasing produce at the farm level and distribution to final markets.

* This is part of an immediate short-term response to bring fresh produce to market, minimising the threat of waste due to the downturn in the tourism sector.

* As it regards excess supplies, we can also report that farmers have donated 30,000 kgs of produce valued at $7.5 million to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for distribution as part of their COVID-19 assistance programme.

* RADA has also assisted farmers to market approximately $15 million worth of produce.