ShapeShapeauthorShapechevroncrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShaperssShape

Improved Deal for Jamaican Pig Farmers

by 5m Editor
29 September 2010, at 11:10am

JAMAICA - Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is hopeful that a new concessionary loan programme for pig farmers will over time help to reverse a projected "slight dip" in pork production this year.

Dr Tufton told members of the Jamaica Pig farmers Association at their eighth annual conference at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville last Thursday that they are being included under the year-old Financial Access for Responsible Members (FARM) programme which allows low-interest loans with soft collateral requirements.

Dr Tufton said applicants could qualify for loans up to $2 million in some cases under the programme funded by the Development Bank of Jamaica and the National People's Cooperative Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Loans will be made for both breeding and fattening purposes, the minister said.

For breeding, the loans will be for four years with a one year moratorium, according to Jamaica Observer. The fattening programme loan will be for six to seven months repayable at the end of the loan period. Both loan types will have an interest rate of 10 per cent on the reducing balance and at the end borrowers will receive two per cent of the loan -- deposited in a bank account as part of a push to encourage the "habit of saving".

Dr Tufton emphasised that for the fattening programme, loan beneficiaries would be required to develop contractual arrangements with a specific buyer "so once you fatten and grow there is a market, you can make your money but also repay the loan."

Additionally, all borrowers must be registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and must be trained through the RADA in collaboration with the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association.

Tufton regretted the projected fall in production this year believed to be largely as a result of high feed prices and low returns. It will follow years of steady growth in pork production.

From approximately 5.5 million kilograms produced in Jamaica in 2002, pork production rose to 9.1 million kilograms in 2008.

The upward trend in production has matched a decline in imports. In 2009, an estimated 737,527 kilograms of pork were imported down from two million kilograms in 2007.

Foreign exchange savings to the economy as a result of domestic pig production is estimated at US$12.2 million.

The industry is said to employ about 6,500 people and accounts for one per cent of Jamaica's Gross Domestic Product.

Dr Tufton argued that with increased production and appropriate attention to quality and "best practices", Jamaica could in the next few years become a pork exporter, especially to CARICOM and other neighbouring countries.

But for this to happen there would have to be emphasis by all stakeholders on developing a culture of "traceability" from farm to fork with the appropriate checks and balances to ensure sanitary standards and certification.

"I keep sayng it's going to be just a matter of time when even our tourism industry is going to require traceability of foods and appropriate sanitary certification. In Caricom right now there are increasing challenges in a number of areas - most recently our local patties ... based on a perception and conclusion that we do not have sufficient traceability..." the Agriculture Minister said.

The agriculture minister reiterated previous commitments that his Ministry would be pushing to regularise abattoirs and slaughtering arrangements. Currently there were more than 100 slaughter facilities -- some of very inadequate standards -- doing commercial slaughtering.

A recent study had recommended that in modernising the system Jamaica needed four or five ISO certified slaughter houses strategically located across the country that would cater to "export trade, formalized industries, hotels..." and "maybe a hundred" of smaller, "less formalised" facilities to serve community needs.

While emphasising that the ISO certification would be "supported by policy", Dr Tufton said it was not a "tomorrow exercise" but was likely to take "three years or so" to come to fruition to allow for public education and legislation.

He envisaged a "public/private partnership" in the drive towards modernisation of slaughtering arrangements since government "doesn't intend to manage them (facilities)".