Dairy board to be blamed for mismanaging sector, says Cousins

MEMBER of Parliament (MP) for Clarendon South Western Lothian Cousins says the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) should account for the mismanagement of the sector, as over the past two years skimmed and whole milk exports have increased by 25 per cent, or close to $2 billion.

“If the minister’s grow smart, eat smart mantra is to be seen as practical and not just another hallow sound bite, he must swiftly provide the necessary policies, resources, and technically competent oversight to correct the inadequacies that now affect the administration of the dairy industry,” the Opposition spokesman on agriculture stated in his 2023/24 sectoral speech in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, in which he bemoaned the country’s continued high food import bill.

He pointed out that in 1992 Jamaica produced approximately 39 million litres of liquid milk, but presently, output has not passed 14 million litres, only surpassed in 2018 by 14.2 million litres, with production consistently at between 11 million litres and 13 million litres in the other years.

“Of significant note is that the 11.8 million litres produced in 2021 shows that we are regressing and not progressing as we ought to. These paltry production numbers bear testimony to the fact that there is significant mismanagement of the sector and the Jamaica Dairy Development Board must be tasked with providing answers on the reason for the regression and failures mentioned,” he demanded, pointing out that the growth in the value of imports of both skimmed and whole milk powders moved from US$ 9.342 million in 2020 to US$ 11.724 million in 2021.

“If we look at the quantities of both SKM and WHM POWDERS imported and also the purpose for which they are imported, we get a deeper insight into the inadequate oversight that is offered by the Ministry of Agriculture to this subsector,” he said, noting that the powders, except for a portion sold in sachets, are used to produce baked products, yoghurt, ice cream and other milk-based products.

He highlighted that these powders are reconstituted during the manufacturing process.

“The elementary and obvious solution is to bring the local manufacturers around the discussion table and start the dialogue to substitute the imported powder with locally produced fresh milk.

“We cannot continue on this expensive import path where the value of imports was US$5.9 million in 2017 rising to US $11.7 million in 2021, a staggering 98 per cent increase,” he stressed, pointing out that the International Merchandise Trade data for the year 2022 show that the new record for Jamaica’s food import bill as of December 2022 is US$ 1.402 billion, or more than $215 billion.