MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND LANDS, THE HON. ROGER CLARKE CONTRIBUTION TO THE 2007 BUDGET DEBATE ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2007


MR. SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT REGARDS THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR AS CENTRAL TO ITS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT POLICY. THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR WITH ITS STRONG LINKAGE TO TOURISM AND MANUFACTURING, AND BEING THE MAINSTAY OF THE RURAL ECONOMY, MUST PROVIDE THE SPRING BOARD FOR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY. I AM HAPPY TO REPORT TO THIS HONOURABLE HOUSE, THAT THE SECTOR HAS NOT FAILED IN THIS REGARD. MR. SPEAKER, REAL GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT FOR THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR GREW BY 15.9%. AGRICULTURAL GROWTH IN TURN WAS UNDERPINNED BY A 15.7% INCREASE IN DOMESTIC FOOD CROP, 47.4% IN EXPORT CROPS AND 49.8% IN FISHING.
THIS REMARKABLE PERFORMANCE STANDS AS A VINDICATION OF THE DELIBERATE AND CONSCIOUS EMPHASIS PLACED ON THE SECTOR BY THE PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER LED ADMINISTRATION. IT IS NO SECRET THAT LAST YEAR WE HAD THE BEST EVER ALLOCATION OF $4.052 BILLION. THE DELIBERATE EFFORTS MADE BY THE MINISTRY TO PROMOTE NEW HIGH YIELDING NON TRADITIONAL COMMODITIES AND THE SUPPORT WE HAVE GIVEN THE SECTOR THROUGH OUR MANY PROGRAMMES AND PROJECTS HAVE PAID HIGH DIVIDENDS. IN ALL OF THIS WE HAVE TO THANK ALMIGHTY GOD FOR A HURRICANE FREE YEAR. MR. SPEAKER, WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE THIS SIGNIFICANT LEAP BECAUSE WE HAVE THE FORMULA.
IT IS NOT MY INTENTION IN THIS PRESENTATION TO DWELL TOO MUCH ON OUR PAST PERFORMANCE, BUT RATHER TO INDICATE IN THE CLEAREST POSSIBLE TERMS THAT WE HAVE THE FORMULA TO TURN AROUND THE ECONOMY OF THIS COUNTRY, IMPROVE RURAL INCOMES AND DEAL A MASSIVE BLOW TO RURAL POVERTY BY ACCELERATING THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SECTOR. THAT THE HON. PRIME MINISTER IS PROVIDING THE VISION AND LEADERSHIP MEANS WE ARE WELL ON OUR WAY. THAT THE SECTOR IS IN THE GOOD HANDS OF A MINISTER WHO NOT ONLY TALKS AGRICULTURE, BUT LIVES AND BREATHES AGRICULTURE IS ALSO REASSURING. THAT WE HAVE THE TEAM IN THE MINISTRY, FULLY ENERGIZED AND SEIZED WITH A VISION OF A MODERNIZED AND STRONG SECTOR, GIVES ME ENORMOUS CONFIDENCE. THROUGH OUR REFORMS, OUR PROGRAMMES AND POLICIES, I AM GOING TO UNVEIL TO YOU TODAY, THE FORMULA.
MR. SPEAKER, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE IN THIS DAY AND AGE TO ATTEMPT TO DEVELOP AGRICULTURE WITHOUT REFERENCE TO THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT. THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF OUR ARABLE ACREAGES, AS WELL AS, THE GREATER PORTION OF OUR PRODUCTION RELATE TO INTERNATIONAL MARKETS. OVER AND ABOVE THAT, WITH THE INCREASING INCLUSION OF AGRICULTURE IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE NEGOTIATIONS, WITH A TREND TO LIBERALIZATION, THERE IS NO LONGER ANY SUCH THING AS A DOMESTIC MARKET. AGRICULTURE TRADE LIBERALIZATION MEANS THAT THE FARMER IN PRICKLEY POLE, ST. ANN HAS TO COMPETE WITH THE FARMER IN MANITOBA, CANADA. WITHOUT A VISION, AND A SOBER AND BALANCED ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION, THE NATURAL RESPONSE TO THIS REALITY IS BEWILDERMENT. BUT AS CHARLES DICKENS SAID IN A TALE OF TWO CITIES “IT IS THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES.” THE BEST OF TIMES IF WE ARE ABLE TO MUSTER THE COURAGE TO LAUNCH INTO NEW AREAS CONSISTENT WITH THE ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXPORT CREATED BY FREE TRADE. THE WORST OF TIMES, IF WE PANIC AND BE CONSTRAINED BY AN INABILITY TO THINK BEYOND THE HERE AND NOW. MR. SPEAKER, THIS GOVERNMENT REJECTS THE LATTER APPROACH. DIFFICULT AS IT IS WE ARE DETERMINED TO MOVE TO NEW FRONTIERS AND WE HAVE EVERY CONFIDENCE IN DOING SO. LEST WE FORGET, I MAKE BOLD TO SAY WITHOUT FEAR OF CONTRADICTION THAT JAMAICA HAS SOME OF THE BEST AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS IN TERMS OF FLAVOUR AND QUALITY ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. THE ALMIGHTY HAS GIVEN US THIS HEAD START, WE MUST NOW GO AND TRADE ON THAT.
I WISH TO BRING TO THE ATTENTION OF THIS HONOURABLE HOUSE, THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA, THAT WILL IMPACT THE SECTOR ARE THE ON-GOING ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION. WE HAVE REACHED A CRITICAL POINT IN THE EPA NEGOTIATIONS, WHERE THE EUROPEAN UNION HAS PUT ON THE TABLE ITS PROPOSAL TO EXTEND DUTY FREE, QUOTA FREE ACCESS TO ALL ITS ACP PARTNERS, AKIN TO THE ARRANGEMENTS NOW IN PLACE FOR THE LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES UNDER THE EVERYTHING BUT ARMS INITIATIVE. THESE NEGOTIATIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BE COMPLETED BY THE END OF THIS YEAR, WITH IMPLEMENTATION IN 2008. THERE ARE PROPOSED PROVISIONS FOR A TWO (2) YEAR TRANSITION PERIOD FOR RICE AND SUGAR.
ON THE FACE OF IT THESE ARRANGEMENTS MIGHT APPEAR TO BE THE DEATH-KNELL FOR OUR TRADITIONAL SUGAR AND BANANA. HENCE, WE HAVE EVERY INTEREST IN THESE NEGOTIATIONS TO CLAMOUR FOR AN EXTENDED ADJUSTMENT PERIOD. WE WOULD BE CARELESS HOWEVER, IF WE DIDN’T ACCELERATE EXISTING EFFORTS TO RADICALLY IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY IN THESE TRADITIONAL AREAS, AND WE HAVE THE FORMULA FOR THAT. AT THE SAME TIME, WHILST UNDER LOME AND COTONOU WE WERE RELEGATED TO BEING EXPORTERS OF RAW MATERIAL, WE NOW HAVE THE MARVELOUS OPPORTUNITY TO EXPORT DUTY FREE, QUOTA FREE TO THE EUROPEAN UNION NOT ONLY OTHER NON TRADITIONAL PRODUCTS, BUT HIGH QUALITY, VALUE ADDED, DIFFERENTIATED PRODUCTS FOR NICHE MARKETS.
HAVING SET THIS BACKGROUND, MR. SPEAKER, I WILL NOW MOVE TO UNVEIL OUR FORMULA FOR RESUSCITATING OUR TRADITIONAL AREAS AND LAUNCHING INTO NEW NON TRADITIONAL AREAS.
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