OVER the next five years Jamaica will benefit from the revitalisation of the spices sector under a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded project.
The USDA initiative is expected to increase the yield of local ginger, turmeric and pimento by 50 per cent and should generate sales of US$20.7 million, of which US$14.5 million is expected to be earned from exports.
These targets are to be realised under the US$20-million Food Progress Jamaica Spices (JaSPICE) project which was officially launched at the AC Hotel Kingston on Thursday.
The project will support 7,500 agricultural sector actors, including women and youth, and put into production 2,250 hectares (6,000 acres) of turmeric, ginger, and pimento.
The initiative aims to integrate climate-resilient farming systems that support farmers in the use of improved planting material and management practices. The objective is to increase the productivity of high-quality local ginger, turmeric, and pimento by improving their quality to meet international standards and expanding trade.
In his remarks at the launch, US Ambassador to Jamaica N Nick Perry said the project is a win-win for both countries, noting that the US’s health food industry is looking forward to the anticipated increased imports that will meet America’s growing demand for high-quality and responsibly produced herbs and spices.
He said Jamaican authentic herbs and spices are well sought after in international markets, pointing out that the US is Jamaica’s top export destination for Jamaican ginger, turmeric and ginger.
“The demand for these herbs and spices continues to grow, hence this project is both timely and important for Jamaican producers. This assistance from the US will help to further position Jamaica as a global export competitor for these products,” he said.
He noted that Jamaica was one of seven countries awarded approximately US$20 million to develop the spice industry under the USDA Food for Progress Program, which helps developing countries and emerging democracies modernise and strengthen their agricultural sectors.
“The award comes as part of USDA’s US$138-million investment in international development projects on four continents to support bilateral priorities such as climate-smart agriculture and trade facilitation,” he said.
He said the US, through its implementation partner ACDI/VOCA, will collaborate with the Government of Jamaica through the agriculture ministry, strategic partners, local stakeholders, and farmers in executing the project.
Perry said the initiative will also target the marketing and development of Jamaican herbs and spices while also promoting sustainable and climate-friendly farming practices.
In the meantime, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining Floyd Green expressed confidence that through the project and the expected increased yields Jamaica will return to its pride of place in the global spices market.
“I am very happy that Jamaica is now going to re-establish its prominence on the world stage in relation to ginger, pimento and turmeric,” he said.
He noted that Jamaica’s spices, which are popular and in high demand, normally attract higher prices in the global market as they are known for their distinctive taste and special characteristics which many global companies try to unsuccessfully replicate, resorting at times to falsely labelling their spices as Jamaican.
He noted that, unfortunately, there have been significant decreases in Jamaica’s spice sector over the decades due to a number of challenges including farmers’ lack of access to clean planting material, poor access to finance, and lack of climate information or adaptability in relation to climate change.
The agriculture minister noted, however, that while production has fallen, the demand for ginger, turmeric and pimento continues to rise and is something the agriculture ministry has taken note of as it works to improve the yields.
Green said that despite the fact that Jamaica’s ginger production rose last year by about 25.8 per cent when compared to the year before; and in spite of pimento harvesting increasing by 234 per cent the last year, with US$2.4 million generated from exports, “the reality is that we’re just scratching the surface”.
“We have to accelerate the pace of expansion, we have to intensify our work with our farmers, and we have to take back pride of place in our major export market, which is the US,” he said, noting that the project will help Jamaica to achieve this objective.