Agriculture Minister on Growth Thrust

Story Highlights

  • The new Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, has indicated that he will be going full throttle in boosting agricultural production in order to cut down on food imports and grow the economy.
  • “We are fixing the fundamentals of agriculture for take-off and to bring the sector to loftier and newer heights,” he said, while addressing the annual Montpelier Agricultural Show in St. James on April 2.
  • “Growth in agriculture is always accompanied by increased employment, a greater level of retention of earnings, and (the sector) has an overall multiplier impact than growth in any other sector,” he added.

The new Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, has indicated that he will be going full throttle in boosting agricultural production in order to cut down on food imports and grow the economy.

He noted that the Administration has already committed to undertake “the largest farm road (rehabilitation) programme in the history of this country” and is poised to spend over £52 million on the upgrading and installation of irrigation facilities over the next five years.

“We are fixing the fundamentals of agriculture for take-off and to bring the sector to loftier and newer heights,” he said, while addressing the annual Montpelier Agricultural Show in St. James on April 2.

Minister Shaw said data show that there is a strong positive correlation between increase in agricultural output and growth in the economy.

“Growth in agriculture is always accompanied by increased employment, a greater level of retention of earnings, and (the sector) has an overall multiplier impact than growth in any other sector,” he added.

The Minister argued that for agriculture to realise its full potential, increased support must be provided for the small farmers that dominate the sector, including access to technological innovations, marketing contracts and pre-financing, where possible.

“On top of that, the Ministry’s extension services will have to provide technical support to these farmers to lift their productivity,” he added.

The Minister said that even as emphasis is placed on uplifting the small farmers “we must, of necessity, focus on larger farms and bigger players. This is critical, as we need economies of scale to achieve the levels of competitiveness we require to compete in the global marketplace”.

As such, he said, it is imperative that the Government, in a deliberate way, unleash its large acreages of land and make them available to the private sector, particularly land with irrigation.

“I have already commissioned the Ministry to work with the Agro Investment Corporation, the National Irrigation Commission, SCJ Holdings and JAMPRO to do inventory of all available government lands,” the Minister informed.

“They have also been asked to profile these lands, identify high-value crops that can be grown and package these lands for investments,” he pointed out.

Minister Shaw said the ever-expanding tourism industry must be a target for increased local production in order to supply the demand of that sector.

He noted further that the high quality of traditional crops such as coffee, cocoa, pimento, ginger and turmeric must be leveraged for export. “Our production levels were there before. We can do it again,” he said.

Minister Shaw said that the growth thrust requires “all hands on deck” including members of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS).

“We need to embrace and tap into this vast reservoir of farmers, mobilised under the banner of an institution that is over 125 years old. We need to establish a genuine partnership,” he said.

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