Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness is calling for supermarket suppliers to reduce food imports and promote more home-grown produce.
“I’m not here saying that we must not import. The nature of our economy is that we have to import but… we have to be more strategic in our imports. We don’t need to import everything, especially when we can produce it right here in Jamaica,” he said.
“We need to eat less processed, imported foods and more homegrown foods – yams, carrots, and tomatoes. It must come from the farm to the fork,” the Prime Minister added while addressing Progressive Grocers’ 20th-anniversary banquet at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Monday (March 9).
Mr Holness was supporting a call from the company’s Managing Director, Sing Chin, for suppliers to refrain from bringing in items that compete with locally made products.
“If you do this, you run the risk of killing local manufacturing and the livelihood of thousands of customers. Protect the local industry by not flooding it with foreign goods,” Mr Chin said.
“We don’t need to import everything, especially when we can produce it right here in Jamaica”— Holness
“We don’t need foreign mango juice; we have lots here. We don’t need foreign sour-sop juice, ours is better. We don’t need anyone else’s ginger cookies or snacks; ours have more kick and crunch,” he added.
Increase in import bill
The Prime Minister, in concurring with Mr Sing, shared that the country’s import bill was $5.9 billion for the period January to November 2019, representing a 3.9 per cent increase over the $5.68 billion for the corresponding period in 2018.
Imports for food was US$942 million, which was a 13 per cent increase over the same period in 2018, when the bill stood at US$832.5 million.
Mr Holness said that the increase was attributed primarily to higher imports of cereals and cereal preparations, miscellaneous edible products and preparations and dairy products and eggs.
The Prime Minister said he is heartened by “the good news that the message of producing locally is taking root”, which is evident by the number of persons and businesses involved in the distributive and import trades that are seeking to get involved in agriculture to substitute the imports of goods, including eggs, potatoes and vegetables.
Mr Holness noted that the country must have reserve capacity to feed the nation in the event that there is a disruption in the global supply chains.
“So, it is absolutely important in my mind that we seek to develop our local productive capacity, and I want to applaud Progressive Grocers for their support for local agriculture and local farmers,” he added.
Progressive Grocers was formed by a group of businessmen in 1999 and is the leading supermarket chain in the country. It owns and operates 22 supermarkets and is affiliated to seven others.
The supermarket chain currently employs 18,000 individuals islandwide.