Jamaican Economy Panel discusses Jamaican food systems and the threat of climate change
25 February 2022
Starting this month, the Jamaican Economy Panel (JEP) begins a series on the effects of climate change in Jamaica. This first month, the panellists are looking
This first month, the panellists are looking at agriculture and food systems to see how these are affected by climate change and the associated policy implications.
Data from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows the generally low level of productivity achieved by the Jamaican agricultural sector. Compared to other Caribbean countries, Jamaica’s output of cereals, milk and fruits is particularly low on a production per hectare basis. While vegetable production is fair compared to other parts of the Caribbean, Jamaican Agriculture does boast some substantial advantages in the production of pulses (legumes) and roots and tubers.
When he was Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon. Floyd Green stated that "in transforming our food systems, we will transform Jamaica and ensure that Jamaica fulfils its Vision 2030 mandate while also ensuring that we achieve our UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)", thus recognizing the importance of food systems for Jamaica. The Global Food Systems Summit of the United Nations in 2021 also argued that food systems are at the heart of the SDGs.
When asked to explain Jamaica’s rates of agricultural productivity, the JEP members identified three main areas of concern: the quality of capital/technology used in production, the quality of infrastructure and the small scale of farms in Jamaica. Each of these results from long-term path dependence and is not easily changed. However, in their comments, it became clear that one of the significant challenges identified is the degree to which crops are lost. This crop loss is attributed to weak infrastructure, insufficient storage facilities, and inadequate preparation for inclement weather.
Undoubtedly, the weather is a critical factor for agricultural production, and thus, climate change is a significant cause for concern for the agricultural sector. Indeed, the climate impacts that have already started to show will increase in size and frequency in the coming years. According to the panellists, this calls for a greater focus on climate change in agricultural management and the climate sensitivity of infrastructure. The adverse effects of climate change on Jamaica's agricultural productivity will demand an even greater role of government, especially concerning the training for farmers and the provision of affordable financing to invest in more climate-resilient infrastructure.
The full results of this month's discussion are available here.