JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Financial Access for Responsible Members (FARM) programme was launched on Monday (November 30), at the Claremont Anglican Church Hall in St. Ann.
The programme, which is being carried out in collaboration with Approved Financial Institutions (AFIs), provides monetary assistance for farming projects.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, explained that the vision was articulated out of a recognition by the Government that more needed to be done to link critical players who produce, finance, distribute and consume agricultural produce, in the primary and value added process forms.
“It is born out of the need for us, as a country, in keeping with our food security thrust, to push for more sustainable agriculture,” he said.
Dr. Tufton stated that sustainable agriculture called for a number of requirements such as land, water, human capital, a more balanced trade policy and, most critical, access to credit.
He pointed out that it was the aim of the Government to work collaboratively with the stakeholders in the programme, so that everyone could benefit.
Turning to the farmers, Dr. Tufton said that they should not be left to survive on their own. He noted that they needed technical support to promote best practices, as well as advice on how to access the necessary working capital in a way that may not require them to have the type of collateral that traditionally governs such transactions.
“We, therefore, felt that it was important for us, as a Government and as a Ministry, to step in and provide co-ordination,” he explained.
The FARM programme was developed out of discussions to address the lack of capital, and the lack of resources to stimulate best practices in the sector.
The programme offers loans in two categories: the first category would allow for a loan up to $500,000, over a term of six months; while category 2 allows for a loan of between $500,000 and $2 million.
He said that the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) had a very critical role to play in the prequalifying process, as successful applicants should have good track records and show a strong level of commitment to working with the programme.
Both categories of loans, Dr. Tufton said, would be linked to the production of specific crops. The range of crops will be expanded over time.
“The two key crops that we are working on are Irish Potato and Onions. I believe included in the current crop selection are (also) hot peppers and carrots,” he said.
He assured the farmers that their crops would be marketed, as they would be entering into a contractual agreement with various buyers. He also expressed hope that persons will buy into the programme, as it was designed so that all involved could reap the benefits.
“Our approach to agriculture is that it cannot just be about the farmer. It must be about all that are concerned in that value chain. Many times the farmer gets left out, but we don’t want that to occur. The farmer is an important spoke in that overall network, but it is also about the financial institutions and their viability,” he observed.
He said that it was also about those involved in the distribution, as well as the consumer who requires good prices, or better prices so that their own economic challenges can be aided and not restricted.
He cautioned, however, that it would require a culture of discipline within the farming sector and a change in mindset among the public, for the FARM programme to be a total success.
A buyer representing Glastonbury Potato Company, Marcia Charlebois, said that company is committed to the programme, and was willing to purchase the produce from the farmers.
“I am sure that the programme will work if we all put our effort into it. I wish much success to the project and we are happy to be a part of it,” she commented.
A farmer, Rema Rattigan, told JIS News that she was excited about the programme and was happy that it came on stream.
“I was glad when I heard about the programme, because it will help the farmers, especially now that we will have a market when we produce to supply,” she said.

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