Regional Governments have a political responsibility to manage trade policies judiciously, so as to build capacity in agriculture and give local farmers a chance to survive.
This was the word from Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, as he addressed a private sector forum on ‘Promoting Agri-business within the Americas’ today (Oct. 27) at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay St. James.
According to Dr. Tufton, agriculture remains one of the most protected sectors in the more developed countries of the world, despite the proliferation of regional trade agreements, and attempts to increase the liberalisation of global agricultural trade within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.
This level of protectionism, he argued, was indicative of the strategic importance of agriculture in the developed economies, suggesting that trade policies should not threaten the regional sector.
In the meantime, he called for private sector investment in agriculture, with the Government creating the enabling environment for development in terms of critical infrastructure and other services.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (centre), has a light moment with Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) Dr. Chelston Brathwaithe (right) and General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), Earl Jarrett (left). Occasion was the private sector dialogue on ‘Promoting Agri-business within the Americas,’ which was held today (Oct. 27) at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Montego Bay St. James, as part of the 5th Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Rural Life in the Americas and the 15th regular meeting of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture.
“In the Caribbean, we must overcome the traditional perception of agriculture as a welfare activity. This attitude has stymied real investments in the sector,” he stated.
While acknowledging the risks involved in agricultural production, the Minister said that these could be significantly reduced, with the state offering support to the sector in terms of extension, research and business advisory services.
He expressed the view that after such intervention by the state, then financial institutions can be expected to adjust the price of credit being offered to agricultural enterprises.
He also pointed to the need for research to address problems relating to improving productivity, with research, extension, and training as critical links.
“In this regard, collaboration among countries is critical, as experiences can be shared,” he stated.
The private sector forum was part of the 5th Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Rural Life in the Americas and the 15th regular meeting of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture now underway at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay.