JIS News

MANDEVILLE — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton says the agricultural sector is currently receiving more favourable attention from financial institutions.

Speaking at an Arable lands Irrigated and Growing for the Nation (ALIGN) business meeting on April 27, at the St. Dorothy’s Anglican Church, in Church Pen, St. Catherine, the Minister said that while he is yet to be comfortable with the number of ideas that the financial sector is willing to fund, they are progressing in the right direction.

“Financial institutions are now taking a second look at the sector. The commercial banks, in one form or another, are putting together packages, and we have been talking to them about specific investment areas within industry, such as  rice, cane and other crops that we believe have critical market possibilities, and they are gradually coming around,” the Minister told the audience.

He advised the farmers and personnel from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Agricultural Investment Corporation (AIC), and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), that the investments  that have been put in the sugar industry,  and with further investments to come, the farmers need to plant more cane, so that the investors can have a ready supply of the crop.

“Within the next two to three years, if we go according to plan, we will need every ounce of land that can grow cane to get back into cane. And, the private farmers are going to be critical to that, because the estates have so much and no more land for planting,” Dr. Tufton said, emphasising that  there are many opportunities available in the sugar industry.

The meeting was organised  to engage farmers in St. Catherine and areas of  Clarendon who jointly have 4,000 acres of arable land, which are to be put into production shortly. Crops to be  grown are rice, sugar cane, vegetables  and cash crops.

At the meeting, farmers  had an opportunity to interact with technocrats from the NIC, RADA, AIC and financial institutions, in order to gather information to assist them to start  growing the crops.

In February 2009, Dr. Tufton introduced the ALIGN initiative with the objective of revolutionising agriculture, by re-engaging all un-utilised and under-utilised land with irrigation infrastructure back into production.

The Minister met with farmers in the various irrigation districts islandwide, and to  date, this initiative has seen the return of approximately 7,000 acres of land into cane, vegetable and cash crop production, mainly in St Catherine in areas such as Bernard Lodge and Bushy Park, St. Catherine,  and in Clarendon. 

 

By GARFIELD L. ANGUS, JIS REGIONAL OFFICE