Statement by Honourable Karl Samuda Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries

To the 40th Session of the FAO Conference

July 3rd - 8th, 2017

Rome, Italy

Mr Chairman

  • I congratulate you on your election to preside over this 40th Session of the FAO Conference.
  • I commend the Director General and the FAO secretariat for the invaluable contribution to agricultural development and food security goals.
  • I thank the Government of Italy for the gracious hospitality that has been extended to us.
  • Mr. Chairman, as a small island developing state, Jamaica welcomes the focus on climate change, agriculture and food security at this 40th Session.
  • We recognise the urgent need to address climate change and its impact on all areas of life and all sectors of the economy.
  • In Jamaica, a renewal of growth in agriculture is making a significant contribution to national development. At the same time we are facing the challenges posed by climate change and recognise the need to build the resilience of the agricultural sector.
  • Indeed, since I assumed office in 2016, the sector has been affected by a prolonged drought, continuing from 2015 to 2016.  Additionally, since October 2016, we have been impacted by excessive rainfall, particularly in April of this year, causing crop losses of approximately One Billion Jamaican Dollars.
  • For us therefore climate change is not a fiction, but a reality we live with daily.
  • For many countries, especially small island developing states - prolonged droughts, frequent intense rainfall, flooding and hurricanes are a common feature of our agricultural and national realities.
  • Jamaica is therefore moving to build resilience through the following initiatives:

    • By expanding areas with access to irrigation. Currently only some 12,500 hectares of the approximately 187,800 irrigable hectares of land in Jamaica is irrigated;
    • By increasing our efforts to establish agricultural insurance schemes and
    • By implementing more drought resistant measures such as water harvesting and storage.
  • Furthermore, we are incorporating climate change adaptation strategies and methods in every aspect of agricultural planning and production.
  • We cannot succeed in addressing the challenge of climate change without global action, we therefore urge the FAO to continue its invaluable efforts in this area.

Food Security

  •  Mr. Chairman, agriculture contributes 7 per cent to GDP, employs 20 per cent of our labour force and provides food security for Jamaica.
  • It is a critical plank of Government’s growth agenda and a centerpiece of our rural development strategy. Against this background, we are pleased that the sector recorded 13 per cent growth last year.  
  • As a matter of strategic policy, in Jamaica, the portfolios of Agriculture and Fisheries are combined with those of Industry and Commerce in order to move the sector further along the value chain and foster greater agro-industrial growth.
  • In recent years, we created the capacity for the sector to make increased contributions to national food security and self-sufficiency, having learned from the experience of the World Food Crisis of 2007-2008, when some net food-exporting countries implemented export bans.
  • We have therefore developed strategies to support increased production of food items for which we enjoy competitive advantage. Our National (Irish) Potato Production Programme has resulted in a 90 per cent self-sufficiency rate, an increase over the 39 per cent rate of 2008.
  • Building on this success, we are pursuing an Onion Production Programme, with the goal of increasing local production to 70% of demand, from the 12% achieved in 2015.
  • Already we have attained self-sufficiency in the production of eggs, poultry meat and pork. This has been achieved through deliberate Government policy support, extension services and incentivizing farmers, especially in the wake of natural disasters.
  • This resulted in a 13 per cent decline in the food import bill, since 2013 when our food import bill peaked.
  • Whilst we are encouraged by the progress I have mentioned, continued support from the FAO and other partners, especially the FAO “in country” presence, is of great importance.  
  • Finally, Mr Chairman, let me recognise the important role of the conference in shaping a global agenda for agriculture, aligned with the sustainable development goals set in Agenda 2030
  • You can be assured of Jamaica’s commitment to these goals and the work of the FAO in the years ahead.
  • I thank you.


Rome 3rd July 2017