An Agricultural Committee for St. Elizabeth was launched on March 21 by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke.
This Committee, comprising the 15 councillors in the parish, signals an alignment with the goals of the agricultural plan in the Vision 2030 national development plan, which has national food security and long term development as some of its goals.
The committee is co-chaired by Councillors Cyril Martin and Cetaney Holness. Key stakeholders in the parish will be co-opted.
According to Mayor of Black River, Everton Fisher, “the Council can no longer ignore the benefits of agriculture to the parish; neither can we ignore the problems.”
“It is imperative that we seek to foster greater linkages with all stakeholders in our parish, to increase performance in agricultural output and productivity,” he said at the launch in Black River.
Meanwhile, Minister Clarke expressed a willingness to work in partnership with all stakeholders in the agricultural sector towards solving the problems, and to move the sector forward.
He mentioned the impact of praedial larceny within the sector, and expressed disgust at the fact that persons caught in the act are not being severely penalized.
“Last year we lost to praedial larceny, some $5 billion worth of farm produce. It is the greatest deterrent to agricultural production in this country,” the Minister said.
Mr. Clarke said he has met with the Commissioner of Police, the Chief Justice, the Judges, and the Clerks to sensitize everyone about the problems with praedial larceny.
“What is disconcerting is that when some of these people are caught, they just get a touch on the knuckle and they go out and come back to rob the farmers once more,” he noted.
He described the problem of praedial larceny as a societal one and just part of a bigger picture, with its genesis in the home.
The Minister called for entire communities to come on board to tackle the problem, with total co-operation with the Police.
He congratulated the farmers in St. Elizabeth for their tenacity, and level of production, against great odds.
Meanwhile, business person from Southfield, St. Elizabeth, Ms Lilieth Clacken, told JIS News that she is pleased with the launch of the Agricultural Committee, noting that it has a very important role to play.
“St. Elizabeth can feed Jamaica and to have such a committee in place is really pleasing,” she said.
Ms. Clacken added that farmers will be delighted to know that they have a stronger group to push the sector forward.
By Bryan Miller, JIS Reporter