JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has called for the establishment of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) – compatible agricultural development fund, to facilitate modernisation and re-tooling of the sector.
This call follows a meeting last week, which the Minister chaired, with the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), as part of the eighth Caribbean Week of Agriculture, held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Dr. Tufton revealed that it was suggested at the meeting, that revenues collected from imports of agricultural produce from other countries, could go towards supporting the development of such an agricultural fund.
“Daily, we import billions of dollars of produce from farmers who are producing it in other countries…We need to put a system in place that says if we gave 100 per cent duty concession on corn imports, which we currently do, coming into the country, apply a five per cent duty and take that five per cent, put it in a pool to re-tool our farmers so that they can grow,” he said.
Dr. Tufton was speaking at the opening ceremony for a Sub-Regional Training of Trainers (TOT) Workshop on Agricultural Science, Technology, and Innovation Systems, being hosted by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA), in collaboration with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) and the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST). The event is being held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel from October 13 to 17.
He noted further, that those who oppose that process, of applying duty to agricultural imports, claim expense to the consumer, “but the truth of the matter is that.it might be a small price to pay for building the local capacity that is required, so that it minimises our vulnerabilities in the long run. We have to take these decisions, and the COTED is firm on it,” he emphasised.
“I think there are opportunities in the current market crisis that we face, (and) we need to look for those opportunities that exist there, (and) not just view it as a threat, but view it as a call to action to address some of the fundamental challenges that we have to confront. We have to change our mindset, we have to change our attitude, we have to change our approach, and it has to start at the highest possible level,” Dr. Tufton stressed.
Also, coming out of those discussions, he said, was the call for the region, to “re-focus our attention towards building local capacity. Territories within the region, which once saw their salvation coming from services, including Jamaica from tourism, from fossil fuels, in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, and saw food or the sourcing of food coming primarily from trading with other countries, are now re-thinking that model because of the developments that have occurred over time”. Out of the meetings, he informed, a communiqu