"When there is insufficient local produce available, our dependence on imports increases, fueling the almost vicious cycle of utilizing scarce foreign exchange to purchase food from overseas. It is an unsustainable position," the Minister said.
He was addressing the closing day of the forum on 'Supporting Economic Empowerment and Development in the Caribbean and Pacific (SEED CAP) at the Half Moon Conference Centre in Montego Bay, on Friday (12 July).
The Minister informed that in order to mitigate the challenges of food security, the Government recently approved the Food and Nutrition Security Policy, which seeks to insure that a sufficient quantity of nutritious foods of appropriate quality is available to everyone, through increased domestic production and a sustainable level of imports.
"Like other countries in the developing world, Jamaica needs to increase capacity to produce adequate and wholesome food to ensure the health and well-being of our people," Mr Clarke stated.
Meanwhile, he asserted that women have a crucial role to play in this effort. Noting that over 43,000 female farmers are registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Mr Clarke said that despite challenges, they have proven to be very capable, as evidenced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pilot project in western Jamaica.
"It is up to the policy and decision makers present at this conference to ensure that our institutions and businesses are prepared to address the unique needs of women and enable agricultural entrepreneurs to thrive," Mr Clarke pointed out.