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Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr.
Photo: Ji

New Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., says he is fully prepared to give of his best in serving the twin sectors that play a major part in sustaining the food needs of the Jamaican people.

In an interview with JIS News, Minister Charles Jr. points out that he will be leading the charge to rebuild and strengthen the sectors as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister says he feels equipped for the job through the work he did in other ministries he served, including being Minister of Urban Renewal, Housing, Environment and Climate Change (MURHECC).

“The wide range of skills and experiences I’ve had from National Security, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Housing and Water and then to MURHECC, I believe that there are several areas of overlap, areas where there are covalent connections between climate resilience and climate-smart technology, sustainable development and the environmental agenda,” he notes.

With sustainable development at the core of the mandate of his previous ministry, Minister Charles Jr. is no stranger to the urgent need for building resilience, which remains central to the Agriculture and Fisheries mandate, given the threat of Climate Change to food security.

“Resilience building within the sector will enable it to grow and to continue serving as the shoulders for the country to stand on, in its economic recovery. All of that is wrapped around sustainable development. That’s a big part of what I was doing at MURHECC in focusing on building resilience and advancing the sustainable development agenda,” the Minister says.

“Agriculture and fisheries are critical to that. A lot of that is also related to the coastal zones and the marine space and how we’re going to protect that, preserve it and promote a sustainable exploitation of the space,” he adds.

Minister Charles Jr. says research and its connection to development is the area in which he wants to see the most improvement as he continues to work within the Ministry.

“I’m a scientist and so I am fully cognisant that farming is a science. I am moving away from this scattered seed approach to a very strategic one, looking at all of the relevant variables, to allow us to have maximum yield and to optimise food production levels.

We’ll be working to identify what the kind of value-added products would be for the international markets and to see what kind of climate-smart technology to introduce,” he points out.

Minister Charles Jr. emphasised the need for research to improve efficiency.

“The base must be research because we don’t have vast amounts of land. We have limited resources and so we have to implement a strategy that uses our limited resources efficiently.

This means knowing the kind of genetics for the cattle for our climatic conditions, knowing the kind of onion that can withstand disease and to produce at the rate needed to maximise on the sun and soil that we have here. All of it flows from enhancing research and building up our productive capacity,” he says.

Minister Charles Jr. also highlights the value of strengthening linkages within the sector, across vendors, governments and regions.

“If you have an expanding tourism market, every hotel that comes in is an opportunity for a new farmer to emerge or for an old farmer to expand. When you talk about health and the impact on our budget, there is a great opportunity for farmers to focus on organic production of food that will help to keep people out of the hospital. When you speak about education, every school has children that need to be fed. There are enormous opportunities to strengthen existing linkages and to create new ones, and I am more than excited to start to champion those initiatives,” he says.

“We’re excited and we’re ready to be on the road every single week, talking to farmers and helping to build farms. I’ll be out there with the fisherfolk as well. I want to travel to Pedro Keys and to help make some cages there, I want to see and feel what the issues are. I’ve already started to go out and meet with farmers, going into the fields so we can understand fully how it works. This is something that I like to do. I’m willing, excited and ready,” Minister Charles tells JIS News.

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