Think before you leap


Before developing agriculture policy, it is important for the government and relevant stakeholders to do policy analysis. Such analysis however must consider a livelihoods or value chains approach. That was the sentiment expressed by Cleve Scott, a representative of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) at the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum being held in Barbados. He was addressing stakeholders from the Caribbean and Pacific in the “Policy Advocacy for Farmers’ Leaders” workshop at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, where the forum is being hosted. But what is meant by a value chain approach to policy analysis? Let’s use a real life example that Mr. Scott made reference to during his presentation.

The value chain environment

Banana farmers in St. Vincent acquired an agro-processing machine to add value to their production but had not considered the policy of government to determine a market for their products. After acquiring the unit, they asked the government to grant them access to the school feeding programme, but this was denied. Mr. Scott stressed that had they considered the government’s policy relating to this scenario, they would have made better use of their investment. Basically, it is not as easy as acquiring a machine and begin developing goods for the market. The entire value-chain environment has to be considered. Everything that is done regarding production of agri-products, sale of goods, government policies etc. are all linked and must be considered when making decisions.

Case-study from Jamaica

Another case study presented at the workshop was in Jamaica where some farmers had not considered their production capacity to meet demands in the government’s school feeding programme. Ms. Stacy Rose, a policy consultant from Jamaica, explained that the Ministry of Agriculture, through lobbying with its counterparts in the Ministry of Education managed to get farmers to provide liquid eggs to Nutrition Products Limited, a state-owned company that manages the school feeding programme. Farmers also supply carrots and bananas to make carrot and banana muffins for the students. However, farmers were unable to meet the demand for liquid eggs for the start of this school term and will not have any supply until January. To make matters worse, they had not informed the company until one week before the start of the school term. The suppliers should have considered their capacity to meet the demands of the market as well as other value chain factors before jumping into this venture. In other words – think before you leap!

Why policy analysis?

In highlighting the effects policy can have on a country’s agriculture sector, two examples were given at the workshop. Ms. Rose spoke of a situation in Jamaica where the government’s low trade tariff policy crippled the once thriving dairy industry. Long before trade agreements were introduced by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Jamaica introduced the lowest trade tariffs in the region, making dairy imports cheaper than local products. Hence, the dairy industry almost died; production declined and several companies closed their operations in Jamaica. Only a few remain today as the industry continues to struggle.

In Haiti, a policy change essentially forced on it by the United States of America decimated the country’s rice industry. Mr. Scott noted that before that policy, Haiti was producing enough rice to feed its local population and for export. Policy can be detrimental to any sector but in particular the agriculture sector and must be properly analysed before being drafted and implemented.

Photo credit: Georgina Smith/CIAT

Blogpost by Andre Huie, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.

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