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Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, has said that the Ministry would be trying to source cheaper fertilizer to reduce the cost of the agricultural input to farmers.
The Minister, who was delivering the keynote address at the launch of Denbigh 2007 yesterday (July 4) at the Hi Pro Ace/Jamaica Broilers’ White Marl complex in St. Catherine, said that increases of up to 100 per cent in the price of fertilizer has posed a “serious threat to the future of agriculture in Jamaica”.
“We are going to be pursuing, as of tomorrow morning, anywhere in the world to find out exactly where we can get the cheapest or the least cost fertilizer to reach our farmers,” he vowed “and we have to find a way to do it.”
According to Minister Clarke, subsidising the industry was not the answer as “this would require a careful structured approach to ensure that the support is reflected in the farm gate price to farmers or end users”.
“It can’t continue like that,” he stated “we have to do something and move with dispatch to protect the industry.”
Opposition spokesman on Agriculture, Senator Anthony Johnson, in supporting the Minister’s move, called for the Consumer Affairs Commission to conduct an assessment of the fertilizer market and evaluate the claim by local producers that world price increases have necessitated the price hike locally.
“Sulphate of ammonia was being sold for $14,000 per ton in June last year and in July this year, it goes up to $24,000 per ton. I don’t think that a 100 per cent increase is justified but we ought to have an objective study done by the Consumer Affairs Commission to assure the farmers that they are not being ripped off and that they are in fact getting fair value for money,” he pointed out.
“We are at one with the Minister on this,” said Chairman of the All Island Cane Farmers Association, Allan Rickards.
He noted that “the $50 million subsidy announced by the Minister in the budget is only going to reduce the cost per bag by about 17 to 18 per cent at most; this against a 70 per cent increase. There must be a less expensive source and we have to find it,” he noted.
He informed that he would be travelling to the World Beet and Cane Sugar Growers Association meeting in Australia soon, and he would be asking other cane growers about their source of fertiliser, to see if Jamaica could utilize that supplier.
Denbigh 2007 will be staged at the Denbigh Showground in Clarendon from August 4 to 6 under the theme: ‘Agro-technology – Advancing National Development’.