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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that agriculture must be transformed into a modern and competitive sector in order for it to survive and grow.
Dr. Tufton was speaking on November 7 at the agriculture task force workshop at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, to discuss the draft vision for the sector as part of Jamaica’s plan to achieve developed country status by 2030.
The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is leading the process to develop Vision 2030, which was launched last week.
Minister Tufton said the Ministry is committed to the long-term planning process and as such, has already prepared an agriculture development strategy with a vision for achieving a modern, efficient and competitive sector by 2020.
“We at the Ministry are even more ahead of the Planning Institute of Jamaica,” he said, “in that the long-term planning strategies have already been formulated and the process of development has begun.”
According to Dr. Tufton, the objectives of the agriculture development strategy are to contribute to sustainable growth and development through employment creation; increased export earnings; ensuring food safety; halting the negative growth of the sector; restore productivity; increase outputs; developing agro-processing industries and facilitating rural development.
He said that these objectives will be achieved through the reorganization of the sector to ensure its effective integration into the global economy and the use of modern technology and “more effective institutional arrangements.”
Continuing, Minister Tufton explained that in the quest for developed country status, it must be recognized that agricultural development is the fulcrum on which sustainable growth of the rural economy will be based.
He noted that in order to support the move towards achieving developed country status, the island must have a comprehensive research and development facility for the agriculture sector.
“It is distressing that our research infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate and disintegrate over the years,” he lamented, adding that “with the new paradigm of scientific focus for development, our research capabilities and infrastructure will have to be strengthened to provide cutting-edge technological advances in areas such as genetic engineering, biotechnology and nanotechnology.”
The focus on science and technology will assist the transfer of information from farm to laboratory as well as the transformation necessary to propel the sector into the 21st Century and beyond, he argued. “No longer can the sector survive with the current levels of production and productivity being achieved.
We must strive to upgrade the production methods of small farmers in this country. We are part of a new world where change is the only constant and the time for technological innovations has come,” the Agriculture Minister maintained.
The long-term vision of the Ministry is to be the driver of sustainable development of the Jamaican agricultural sector and natural resources by the year 2020.