Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, on Tuesday (August 3) officially launched the $50 million National Small Ruminant Development Programme at the Hounslow Research Station in St. Elizabeth.
The programme is geared towards rapidly increasing the population of primarily goat and sheep, thus increasing the local production, productivity and quality of small ruminant meat and milk.
This is to be achieved through the purchase and distribution of mature bucks to expand breeding support to small ruminant clusters across the island.
Increasing the abundance and availability of breeding stock under the programme through robust artificial insemination and embryo transfer will also improve the nation’s food security.
Minister Green said that more than 6,000 registered small ruminant farmers are to benefit for free from the initiative, which is aimed at growing the sector by five per cent each year and steadily decreasing the country’s import bill for chevon (goat meat).
He noted that “over the last five or so years, Jamaica has imported over US$1 billion worth of chevon into our country. So, I don’t need to convince you about the significant demand, but over the years, we have not been able to drive the supply that fits our demand”.
“This is what this project is about. It is about ensuring that we satisfy that demand, which is over one million kilograms, but more importantly, it is about ensuring our food security,” he added.
In the meantime, he said that the Government has tasked the Jamaica Dairy Development Board to work on the development of a national livestock policy.
“So, as we do the background in terms of the policy work…. we have to ensure that on the ground we are increasing the supply.
“What we are really trying to do is to ensure that we have breed improvement, to ensure that we have the technology transfer and the capacity-building to expand and sustain the industry, and to ensure that we also focus on the food supply and to really structure the sector,” Minister Green said.
For his part, President of the Small Ruminants Association of Jamaica, Trevor Bernard, lauded the Ministry on the National Small Ruminant Development Programme.
He said that the Association is willing to partner with public and private stakeholders to ensure that all the measures outlined under the programme will come to fruition.