Milk is cru­cial to chil­dren’s nutri­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - FEATURE - PAUL JEN­NINGS paul.jen­nings1950@gmail.com

I FEEL con­strained to com­ment on Fri­day’s re­port by Tameka Gor­don on what ap­pears to me as un­pro­duc­tive cross-talk re­gard­ing the role of milk in the na­tional School Feed­ing Pro­gramme.

I in­ter­vene as one who has pas­sion­ately es­poused over many years the view that the na­tional School Feed­ing Pro­gramme pro­vides a strate­gic link to any sus­tained growth in agri­cul­ture, not just in re­spect of the dairy in­dus­try.

A Ja­maica In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice re­port of Septem­ber 5, in­di­cated a planned ex­pen­di­ture for the 2016-17 fis­cal year of J$4.3 bil­lion by the School Feed­ing Pro­gramme to cover meals for ap­prox­i­mately 130,000 stu­dents. Over a 195-day school year, this works out at an av­er­age spend­ing per child of ap­prox­i­mately $170 per day. Ig­nor­ing the de­tails of the wide-rang­ing forms which a ‘school meal’ might take, this fig­ure seems, on the sur­face, quite ex­trav­a­gant for a mass feed­ing pro­gramme. At the equiv­a­lent of ap­prox­i­mately US$256 per child per year, Ja­maica’s pro­jected unit cost com­pares with a me­dian US$46 per an­num re­ported by the World Food Pro­gramme in a 2013 pub­li­ca­tion on ‘The State of School Feed­ing World­wide’ (http://doc­u­ments.wfp.org/stel­lent/groups/pub­lic/doc­u­ments/com­mu­ni­ca­tions...). This seems to nul­lify Mr James Rawle’s con­tention of lo­cally pro­duced milk be­ing too ex­pen­sive for in­clu­sion in the school fare.

With spe­cific re­gard to the in­clu­sion of milk in the School Feed­ing Pro­gramme, my rec­ol­lec­tion, as a for­mer CEO of the Ja­maica Dairy De­vel­op­ment Board, was that a medium-skimmed milk drink would be of­fered, thus cre­at­ing sev­eral value-added op­tions for pro­ces­sors and, im­por­tantly, low­er­ing the cost of liq­uid milk to the School Feed­ing Pro­gramme.

LEFT OUT OF THE LOOP

This might have had the un­palat­able ef­fect that Nutri­tion Prod­ucts Lim­ited would not have been in any po­si­tion to sup­ply such a prod­uct and might very well pro­vide an ex­pla­na­tion for “their be­ing left out of the loop”.

I should point out, in clos­ing, that with an en­rol­ment of more than 630,000 stu­dents in the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, a ra­tio­nalised School Milk Pro­gramme of­fers a po­ten­tial mar­ket in ex­cess of 25 mil­lion litres per year.

While I am en­cour­aged by Se­prod’s com­mit­ment to ex­pand­ing its out­put to 20 mil­lion litres in the medium term, I would like to sug­gest that the Jamaican Govern­ment re­main a vi­tal player in cre­at­ing, through its School Feed­ing Pro­gramme and other pol­icy im­per­a­tives, the type of mar­ket sta­bil­ity re­quired for driv­ing Ja­maica to be­gin to ap­proach its po­ten­tial for ac­cel­er­ated agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment.

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