ASSP gets $327 Million in Estimates of Expenditure

The Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands is to receive a $327 million boost this fiscal year.
The funds are earmarked in the 2007/08 Estimates of Expenditure, tabled in Parliament last week by Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies.
Funded by the government of Jamaica and the Inter American Development Bank, the project, which as started in March 2001, has three components: to enhance the quality and delivery of agricultural support services mainly through improving extension, marketing and research services; upgrading of existing systems for safeguarding animal and plant health, as well as food safety; and supporting the implementation of selected productive projects in order to stimulate agribusiness development in rural areas.
The strengthening of agricultural support services will be done through the establishment of an improved system of delivering support services to producers and exporters; and the development and execution of a Memorandum of Understanding with support service providers.
Component two, which involves improving food safety systems, will involve the strengthening and consolidating of agricultural health and food safety services, through the development of policy and strengthened consolidation mechanism between agencies and ministries; the implementation of a public awareness campaign; and the development of a database and the strengthening of record systems.
Meanwhile, efforts to stimulate agribusiness development will entail the financing of selected activities in high payoff productive projects for agricultural producers and exporters.
As at February of this year, some 58 Memorandum of Understandings were signed with service providers; 55 contracts to supply a full range of agricultural support services were signed with 48 executed; and there have been improvements in agricultural support services. In addition, a fund for agricultural support services was established and put in operation, while a mechanism for the identification and prioritization of strategic commodities and regions was established. Equipment to strengthen agricultural support services in the Ministry were acquired and maintained; field service facilities at the Agricultural Research Development Division (ARDD) and Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) have been upgraded; technical personnel were trained and some 1,361 producer organizations were strengthened.
In addition, five animal-related legislation were developed; Animal Health Policy was expanded, clarified and adopted; the Central Livestock Diagnostic Laboratory was upgraded; a National Livestock Identification programme was piloted; and 2,430 cattles were tagged.
Personnel were hired and deployed; plant health manual methodologies were developed; an electronic plant health surveillance and pest response database was installed in Kingston and Montego Bay; and a plant health policy is being developed.
There was also the establishment and adoption of a National Food Safety Policy; an interim agricultural health and food safety committee was established; an interim governing body was updated and enacted; personnel were trained, hired and deployed; and laboratory practices were enhanced.
In the meantime, a US$6 million fund was established and put into operation; some 25 subprojects were approved; and the process to implement 22 productive projects continued.
Work under the project for 2007/08 will include the training of technical personnel; the completion of civil works to upgrade Bodles Research Station; and the completion of 58 agricultural support service contracts.
In addition, there will be the continuation of review and update of plant health legislation and regulation; implementation of food safety mechanisms; completion of an investment phase of 12 approved subprojects; and the establishment of an institution to provide ongoing marketing services to future agricultural producers and exporters.

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