Address by the Hon. Derrick Kellier, CD, MP Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

Opening of the Best Dressed Chicken Cumberland Hatchery

January 12, 2016

Portmore, St Catherine


I welcome today as a very important day. I am particularly pleased at this initiative which demonstrates the commitment of Best Dressed Ltd. to Jamaica and the people of this country and exemplifies the important role that the private sector plays in the agricultural sector. And so, I wish to thank and congratulate Jamaica Broilers for continuing to support Government’s mission to relentlessly pursue the growth and development of this country

The launch of this new hatchery could not have come at a better time, given the recent increased demand for more chicken meat which spiked during the recent holiday period and led to a temporary shortage in terms of supplying these demands.

As you are aware, my Ministry did not hesitate in responding to the situation and indeed we moved immediately to take swift action to ensure the supply of chicken meat to satisfy the quantities being currently demanded by consumers.

Following our consultations with our industry partners and stakeholders we decided on some immediate measures to address the situation. These measures include:

  1. Jamaica Broilers has agreed to place an additional 50,000 chickens per week into production starting this week, which will come into the market in 6 weeks.
  2. The Ministry is also to consult with Caribbean Broilers  with a view to  increasing production to meet a similar target
  3. The Ministry will grant import licence for 4 containers a week, for 5 weeks, for leg quarters.
  4. We will also monitor demand continually to ensure production levels match demand going forward.

Some of these are short-term responses. In the meantime, we are also happy to note and to welcome the swift action by Jamaica Broilers, its supply farmers and other stakeholders to respond to the expanded and growing demand for chicken.

We take note that this continued growth in demand is in addition to the reported increased production of some 17 per cent in chicken meat last year.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I like to say, each challenge brings with it an opportunity. So what the current shortage of chicken meat has created are opportunities all-round - for our chicken farmers and our poultry processors and the industry at large.

 And, there is also a reason for the increased demand for poultry meat – and that reason, logically, speaks to the impact of a stronger economy.

So although we regret the temporary shortage, we welcome it as an indicator of a stronger and growing economy. And, indeed, we welcome the increased demand as a pull factor that will spur even greater investment and greater production in the poultry industry. As we have seen, Jamaica Broilers has already announced its intention to spend some $700 million in establishing more poultry houses. The opening of this facility demonstrates that intention.

The fact of the matter is that the poultry industry has been one of the success stories of Jamaican agriculture. The opening of this new hatchery today is also  in direct congruence with our policy for import substitution and local production, which we have championed over the years and especially under the theme of our Grow what we eat, eat what we grow campaign.

Let us recall that in 2003, when the Grow what we Eat, Eat what we Grow campaign was first launched, we only produced some 72 million kilograms (72 million kg) of the roughly 90 million kilograms (90 million kg.)  poultry meat we consumed locally. Currently, except for the recent situation now being addressed, we have had a consistent level of full self-sufficiency in poultry meat.

And, indeed, we must note that in 2015, we produced just over 112 million kilograms of chicken meat in Jamaica, an increase of 55% over the 2003 figure.  This sector has recorded and continues to record demand and growth and we have every intention of continuing the growth and meeting the demand!

Through our Import Substitution Policy  and our  National Food Security and Nutrition Policy, ladies and gentlemen, this Government  has been pursuing food security and import substitution as a matter of deliberate strategy and has been applying this to several sectors of the agriculture industry.

The National Food Security and Nutrition Policy, for example, seeks to ensure that a sufficient quantity of nutritious food of appropriate quality is available to all people in Jamaica, through increased domestic production and a sustainable level of imports.

It is through this deliberate policy that over the last four years we have:

  • Established nine agro-parks - providing employment for some 1,428 farmers and other workers while having harvested over 3.3 million kgs of produce, including onions, peppers, vegetables, potatoes, yams, melons, pineapples and other crops to date.
  • Invested close to $2billion in providing new irrigation systems in agro-parks and other farming areas
  • Spent over $6billion under the Sugar Transformation programme to provide and/or upgrade houses, schools, libraries, clinics, sports facilities, roads, water supply systems and other community infrastructure in sugar cane-producing and dependent areas
  • Invested over $216 million in the revitalisation of the banana industry and thereby facilitating the resumption of the export trade to the United Kingdom; and we expect to spend another $400 million over the next two years;

Invested over $3.4 billion in mitigation and  adaptation programmes to provide short, medium and long-term solutions to the emerging challenges of climate change

  • Introduced and supported new industries such as new sweet potato varieties and the commercial use of cassava
  • Achieved almost full self-sufficiency in table Irish potato and are now embarked on a similar programme for the production of onions.
  • Launched the National Animal Identification and Traceability System to enhance the traceability of cattle and improve animal health
  • Established a Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit and programme within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which, working along the security forces, is already making a serious dent in the scourge  of farm theft and praedial larceny
  • Advanced the implementation of food safety systems to make our foods not only safer for local consumption, but also for the export markets.

Indeed on the matter of food safety, especially as it relates to the poultry industry, our country can be proud of the fact that despite the outbreak of bird flu last year in several areas of the world,  our country has remained free of any outbreak of the disease.

In fact, as early as March last year, in our bid to safeguard Jamaica’s poultry and public health in the wake of then reported outbreaks of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, commonly known as bird flu, in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, the Ministry, through our Veterinary Services Division, imposed an immediate import restriction on poultry products from North America, the main source from which Jamaica imports poultry products.  The imposed restrictions were taken in accordance with Jamaica’s Animals (Diseases and Importation) law and were consistent with international guidelines.

We believe those high standards and swift actions helped to protect our industry. In accordance with international guidelines, we have now resumed importation from those states which have been declared free of bird flu.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would not stand here today and claim that all is well in all areas of the agriculture sector. We do continue to have challenges, but without fear of successful contradiction, I can assure you that our efforts are bearing fruit and we are reaping good rewards in some areas. And, it is thanks to these deliberate strategies and the impact of increased production from the agro-parks, Jamaica’s food import bill which declined by some 4.5% in 2014 is continuing along that trend in 2015. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, up to August 2015, expenditure on the import of food declined by 7.4 % from US$625.546 million to US$579.450 million compared to the same period in 2014. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot take these achievements for granted. These achievements are a result of Government policy and support from our local and international partners and investors, especially when it comes to funding, infrastructure and capacity building. But, more fundamentally, the resilience of the agricultural sector is both a testimony and tribute to the tireless commitment of our farmers and fishers who toil the land and brave the seas daily to feed us.

These achievements, like the fact that we have managed to reduce our food import bill, are clear indications of what we can achieve with deliberate strategies aimed at making agriculture sustainable.
So, at the beginning of this brand new year, 2016, we want to continue to go for growth in the sector and my Ministry and I will continue to lead the committed charge to grow agriculture and make it sustainable.
Thank you and God bless you!