How Sweet It Is! Jamaica Develops a Sweet Potato Industry Through Trade

Posted by on April 5th, 2017 | 0 Comments »

Improving trade in agriculture and food products is an integral part of meeting global food security needs and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). [1] Creating more robust, sustainable agriculture systems requires trade policy frameworks that are forward-looking, innovative and inclusive to benefit producers, consumers and the environment.

Improving the trade capacity of low-income countries helps agricultural producers take advantage of market opportunities that will increase their incomes and expand their businesses.

On a wider scale, improving trade policies and infrastructure will enable consumers around the world to access a wider variety of foods, as well as staple foods, at competitive prices. Trade will also create employment opportunities along the agricultural value chain and in supporting industries.

Partnerships Boost Trade

In 2014, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) responded to a request from the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) for technical assistance to bring up to 2,000 acres of land into production for orange flesh sweet potato. The MoAF wanted to take advantage of the growing demand for orange flesh sweet potato in Europe and Canada to help Jamaican farmers improve their livelihoods, while contributing to country’s GDP through foreign exchange earnings.

Thanks to the collaboration with IICA and the partnerships to build technical capacity, Jamaica is producing commercial sweet potatoes for the first time, opening up new global markets for farmers, building the economy and increasing the availability of a high-demand, nutrient-dense, value added food.

The first task for IICA was to determine which varieties of sweet potatoes could be produced commercially in Jamaica, as well as a developing an export-oriented post-harvest handling system that preserved the quality and nutrient content of the product. IICA enlisted two U.S. land-grant universities to provide technical assistance and capacity building in commercial sweet potato production.

For more on the importance of facilitating trade for food security and livelihoods, see the 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®), pages 60-65.

North Carolina State University (NCSU) provided technical assistance in the propagating, harvesting and handling of the Beauregard and Covington sweet potato varieties. The Jamaica MoAF established the Sweet Potato Clean Seed Program and acquired a two-year license to test the performance of the Covington sweet potato variety under Jamaican conditions — the first and only government institution in the Caribbean and Latin America to do so. With NCSU sharing its knowledge and connections to the U.S. sweet potato industry, Jamaica became an associate member of the North Carolina Potato Commission and organized a trade mission to the Annual National Sweet Potato Convention.

In 2015, the MoAF received an order for 2.4 million pounds of Beauregard sweet potatoes from the U.K. market. Louisiana State University (LSU) was brought in to help train farmers and extension officers in commercial Beauregard production and handling. Beauregard “foundation seed” was purchased from the LSU AgCenter which the MoAF used to propagate virus-free planting material for sale to farmers. MoAF and private industry officials toured sweet potato curing, storing and processing facilities for value-added products in Louisiana.

Jamaican farmers are now harnessing the power of trade to produce commercial sweet potato products for the first time, providing nutritious foods for growing regional and global demand.


[1] UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, “SDG Goal 17: Strengthen the Means of Implementation and Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development,” https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg17.

[2] OECD Trade Facilitation Indicators, http://www.oecd.org/trade/trade-facilitation-agreement-would-add-billions-to-global-economy-says-oecd.htm.

« On Our Plate: Producing Livestock Sustainably
On Our Plate: Filling the Farmer Gap »

No Comments