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MANDEVILLE, Jamaica, June 4, 2014 /CNW/ - The Canadian Hunger Foundation and it's regional office CHF Caribbean (CHF) officially launched a six-year, CAD 20 million initiative today that is working with major buyers of fresh produce-like supermarkets and hotels-to identify their needs and link them to Caribbean producers. The project will also be working with up to 28,000 farmers in Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada to help them better tap into these markets.
"Despite the large number of small and medium-sized farms in the Caribbean region, some countries currently import more than 90% of their fresh produce. In Grenada, for instance, only 2.5% of fresh produce served in hotels is locally grown," says Stewart Hardacre, President and CEO of the Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF). "That's bad for Caribbean producers and it's inefficient for major buyers here. We're going to help ensure that more of the fresh produce consumed in the Caribbean comes from Caribbean farms."
Currently small and medium-sized farms, processors and other related businesses in the Caribbean struggle to access these massive markets-worth an estimated $50-100 million every year-because of shifting market conditions, and challenges in reliably meeting the quality, quantity and food safety needs of buyers year round. By 2018, CHF Caribbean's "Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages" (PROPEL) Project will have increased the absorption of fresh Caribbean produce into high-value national, regional, and international markets by CAD 100 million.
"This project is exactly the kind of initiative we need to strengthen ties between our farmers and processors and major buyers in the region, like hotels and supermarkets," says Roger Clarke, Jamaican Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. "In Jamaica, as in the other countries in the region, there is a vast amount of untapped agricultural potential. We're going to work alongside CHF Caribbean to see that buyers can locally access the fresh produce they need and that farmers and related businesses can make the most of their potential. This initiative is a godsend at this point in time because while we are already working to satisfy local demand, we are also looking to increase exports within the region."
In total, CHF and their local partners are helping up to 28,000 Caribbean farmers to access new markets by improving the quality, quantity and safety of their products and by increasing the business management skills of farmers and agro-processors. Access to credit will also be facilitated through the project, so farmers can grow their operations and make them more efficient.
National and Regional farmers' networks in the Caribbean play a key role in supporting farmers to improve the quality and size of their harvests. CHF and regional partners like the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) will enhance their capacity through the project to better meet the needs of their members.
Major produce buyers will also collaborate by purchasing fresh produce from farmers supported by the project. A Caribbean Produce Marketing Corporation (CPMC) will be established through the project to serve as a broker between small to medium-sized farmers and large buyers, taking orders from buyers and issuing contracts for farmers for the supply of fresh produce at a specific quality and quantity and to be delivered at a specific time.
"This timely investment from CHF Caribbean and the Government of Canada will be of great assistance to the private sector and farmers across the Caribbean region," says Olive Downer-Walsh, General Manager of Agro Grace, division of Hardware and Lumber Ltd., and Jamaica's leading distributer of inputs for farming and home gardening. "We're looking forward to working alongside our partners to increase the viability of farming and other agricultural-related businesses."
CHF has been operating in the Caribbean region for over 18 years, and has a strong history of developing the capacity of producer groups and institutions. This project will be undertaken with the support of the Government of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).
For 52 years, CHF has empowered the world's poorest families to increase their incomes and to sustainably produce food that better meets their nutritional needs. The non-profit organization has worked in over 50 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas, and is currently implementing 9 projects in 16 countries that support over 450,000 people and their communities. To support their work, donors can visit www.chf.ca.
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