“I do believe the ornamental fish industry can become for Jamaica what flowers have become for Colombia,” he stated, while addressing the close out ceremony for the Collaborate to Prosper Project at the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA) headquarters in Kingston on July 30.
The cut flower industry has become a major contributor to the Colombian economy and is now the nation’s leading non-traditional export and fourth largest earner of foreign exchange after coffee, petroleum, and bananas.
Mr Hylton argued that by tapping into the lucrative ornamental fish export market, which is valued at some US$400 million, Jamaica could see similar success.
He informed that he has pledged $1 million from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to The Competiveness Company (TCC) to support the start-up and strengthening of ornamental fish operations within his Western St. Andrew constituency.
“It is expected that this effort will contribute towards micro enterprise development not just in my constituency, but by extension the country,” he stated.
The Industry Minister said that to develop the sector it is important that Jamaica has a consistent supply of competitively priced fish. “This means developing a cadre of breeders with sufficient capacity to stock the farms, and low input costs, including the cost of energy,” he noted.
Additionally, he said, the sector needs a central export facility that can consolidate production and provide the quality control, volume and packing efficiency required for large scale commercial export.
The Minister pointed out that the country also needs to address other issues such as management of disease and traceability, which involves providing a transparent and credible system for managing quality, preventing disease, and tracing origin.
Head of TCC, Dr Beverley Morgan, said the development of ornamental fish farming is just one component of the Collaborate to Prosper Project, which has seen hundreds of Jamaicans gaining financial security through entrepreneurship.
The three-year programme, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided for the establishment of some 200 ornamental fish farms in 57 inner city communities, as well as the training of 300 fish farmers.
Dr Morgan also informed that the TCC partnered with local farmers to plant some 50 acres of speciality crops, including mint, rosemary, moringa and lemon grass for the tea export market.
“We didn’t want to be planting things that everybody else was growing and we didn’t want to be planting things that when the project ended the farmers would not be able to continue growing and supplying the markets,” she informed.
The project also enabled the training of 96 persons in new farming technologies, 70 per cent of whom were women.
For her part, Mission Director, USAID, Denise Herbol, said she is pleased with the successes of the initiative.
She noted that the majority of the targets set under the project were achieved with several surpassed, including meeting the exhaustive and stringent requirements to open up the Canadian market for imports of ornamental fish from Jamaica.
Another significant achievement under the programme is that the TCC and the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries are moving ahead to complete negotiations to upgrade and occupy a building that is owned by the Ministry at the Norman Manley International Airport.
The building, which meets and exceeds international standards for bio-security, will become a site for ornamental fish exports in Jamaica.
“Additionally, TCC continues to expand their successful programmes beyond the shores of Jamaica and with partnerships from the international community, including the World Bank, TCC will look to establish an additional 20 farms and train farmers in five communities,” she informed.