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Livestock Farming: An opportunity presented by corn beef crisis

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The recent ban on beef imports from Brazil presents an opportunity for us as a nation to not only look at our beef sector, but also to analyse the status of our livestock industry (all forms of protein). The industry with the exception of poultry farming, which is heavily supported by government policy, is underperforming.

Jamaica’s production of beef, mutton, chevron (goat meat), fresh water fish and other meats have been relatively miniscule in relation to its potential and past history. The reasons for the levels of production are varied, with some caused by circumstances beyond our control. However, a major portion has to do with poor policy from government and private interest.

Devon Paul Sayers
In the early 2000s the term ‘food security’ was bantered around in the global economy. This caused Jamaica to be a beneficiary of significant international funding through the European Union, United Nations FAO and other agencies that pumped money in projects , such as the goat commercialization project and sheep commercialization project and many others. Even though, these programmes sparked interest and introduced best practises along with training for our farmers, the intended end game of having buoyant and fast developing livestock sector has not been fulfilled. The hard fact is that Jamaica remains heavily dependent on meat imports to fulfil the demand of the household, restaurants and tourism sector. This not only poses a threat to our food security but pressures the exchange rate.

Many will suggest that with praedial larceny being such a big deterrent in livestock production, why argue for heavier investment in the sector. From my point of view, the biggest deterrent for livestock farmers investing and increasing production is not praedial larceny, but instead lack of suitable financing.

Proper Financing

Speaking as a livestock farmer myself, the sector’s slow pace of expansion has little to do with lack of markets, because even before animals are mature buyers begin to make inquiries. The lack of adequate low interest and well structured financing is a main deterrent; for example the average farmer in Jamaica has to sell significant portions of his or her herd to reinvest in farm infrastructure and breeding stock animals. The truth facing us is that not even the designated Agricultural Bank (Peoples Cooperative Bank) knows how to finance livestock development. Small livestock such as goats and sheep takes eight months to a year before they’re market ready. If a farmer should take a basic farm loan he would have made three to four quarterly payments before one animal is sold. This situation doesn’t encourage production. The structure of a basic livestock agricultural loan should be single digit with a two-year moratorium before quarterly payments are due. This will give farmers enough time to grow and develop their herds and not be forced into unnecessary sales.

Improved Animal Genetics

The beef cattle, meat goats and sheep herds from observation have declined in quality because of lack of genetic diversity. For instance, speak to any cattle farmer and they will tell you that the size of the animal breeds have declined over the decades. Concerted effort is needed from the authorities and farmers’ groups to import and develop more quality breeding stock animals that will be used to improve production and meat quality.

The livestock industry has skilled and ready farmers, who have benefited from training and technical assistance from agencies such as Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA).

The stage is set for us to raise production levels and reduce imports. In my opinion there is no need for grants and handouts, access to reasonable credit arrangements is the lacking element.

Devon Sayers, MBA, is Vice President of the Small Ruminants Association of Jamaica and Lecturer in the Department of Business at Portmore Community College. Send feedbacks to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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