Government Repositioning Agriculture to Expand Market Horizons says Prime Minister Golding


Prime Minister Bruce Golding says that while the Ministry of Finance is releasing funds in tranches to help farmers get back on track after the devastation of Hurricane Dean, the long-term focus must be on creating a new vision and approach to farming.
He said agriculture must be seen as an economic activity that provides the opportunity for its stakeholders to offer a good life for their families and if this is not being realised it meant that something was wrong. Mr. Golding told representatives of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) at a luncheon meeting at Jamaica House on (Oct 18) that the government is looking at establishing an export promotion entity that is private and public sector driven. He told the JAS representatives that this entity is required because agriculture cannot be developed on the basis of our domestic market, because so much of what the domestic market demands, cannot be met. Mr. Golding said this promotion entity would demand the kind of person with the skill to seduce a buyer at a trade show and that this kind of skill is not available in the public sector, hence the need for private sector support.
Expanding on the need for a change of vision for the sector, Mr. Golding said ‘We are in a world that is fierce and unsympathetic, where we are being dragged into trading arrangements that demand a great deal and in reality offers little. We are being challenged all around by tough negotiations and we are not on the diving board to take the plunge.’
Mr. Golding said there is a need to focus on the new culture of technology because the agricultural practices are inefficient and outdated. Today’s farmers he said cannot expect to operate in the same way as their fathers and grandfathers. But he said it was important to look at the transition without abandoning the traditional farmers and to see how we can identify those who can be the purveyors of that new culture. He said Jamaica had spent money on training young people but that opportunities for employment are just not available and so the country had misallocated much of its resources. Many of the graduates from schools like CASE were driving mini-buses and selling imported good instead of earning their living from working in the sector.
Mr. Golding said another area that needed serious examination was the availability and access to credit. He said there was need to look at how to make funds more available and less cumbersome for farmers. One of the considerations was the provision of collateral to allow farmers to become less dependent on handouts of fertilizer and seedlings in times of disaster. He referred to the government’s plan disclosed earlier this week about providing titles for those who occupy family lands but who have no titles for such land. He said once ownership could be affirmed by the people in the community, then a community land title, could be issued. This programme would empower those farmers to be able to use their assets to expand their business.
The Prime Minister has charged the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Christopher Tufton with the task of putting together a small working team of stakeholders in the sector to work out a framework of policies to present at an upcoming cabinet retreat. “Government does not believe it has all the answers but that we have to work with our partners in the agricultural sector, to share the vision and to come up with a consensus based on a set of decisions’, Mr. Golding concluded.
Head of the JAS, Senator Norman Grant welcomed the government’s plans but noted that it would take serious commitment from the highest level of government, to get some equality between urban and rural Jamaica. He said the association was looking forward to the collaboration between the government and the sector and he gave the association’s full commitment of co-operation.

JIS Social