JIS News

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has announced that the government has allocated $128.5 million for the purchase of modern irrigation systems for farmers, during this year.She cited the importance of agriculture to the Jamaican economy, stressing that investment must be placed on the agricultural sector in order for the country to gain consistent economic growth, which would then serve to facilitate development in other areas.
“No developing country like Jamaica can hope to achieve economic growth without a strong and vibrant agricultural sector; it is key to a nation’s capacity to feed itself and to create income earning opportunities for the thousands of people in the rural areas who depend on the land for a living,” the Prime Minister said.
Addressing the 54th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show in May Pen, Clarendon yesterday (August 7), Mrs. Simpson Miller pointed out that the government has prioritised the agricultural sector by re-instating the areas of land and irrigation under its purview.
“Our decision to return land and irrigation to the Ministry of Agriculture forms part of a deliberate and strategic move to transform the sector.land is the only source of the material life of a people; it provides food and shelter, furnishes wealth, is the basis of all production, all development, all security, all growth, it is the root of our being,” she asserted.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the government has increased the budget for the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands for the 2006/07 financial year by more than $400 million, to fund programmes that provided income earning opportunities for farmers, the youth and women.
She said that these programmes included the Bee-keeping Apprenticeship project, of which the sum of $30 million has been allotted; the Sheep and Goat project, which has received $50 million; and the Ornamental Fish production project, which has targeted young people from both the rural and urban areas.
Noting that the country spends $300 million per year on the importation of fruit juice concentrates, the Prime Minister said that some $50 million has been allocated for the development of a technology based Fruit Tree Crop Project, “in order to reverse this trend and allow farmers to meet the needs of juice manufacturers and increase their income earning potential in the long term”.
She emphasised that the government would assist farmers in the process, and urged them to make use of other opportunities that would help to increase their output and subsequently their earnings.
The Prime Minister highlighted the expansion of the hotel industry, and noted that this was one area that farmers could take advantage of, as it provided a viable and dependable market for their produce.
Citing figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), she noted that from January to December 2005, the importation of meat, dairy products, fish, fruits, vegetables and spices for the hotel industry, amounted to $345 million.
In this regard, she said that farmers should seek to reverse this trend and “step up to the plate” by producing and supplying more of these products to the hotel industry.
Turning to the sugar industry, the Prime Minister said that the government “has no intention of abandoning the sugar industry”, as it provided direct income for more than 38,000 persons and indirect income for an additional 100,000 persons.
She said that a special committee has been established to “rescue the 2006/07 sugar crop” as well as “bring factories and fields to minimum levels of efficiency”.
Mrs. Simpson Miller also noted that a group, known as the Sugar Enterprise Team, has been established to undertake the privatisation of the Sugar Company of Jamaica.
On her first visit to the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show as Prime Minister, she said that the show has proven that farmers were still committed to the development of the sector, as was evident in the quality of their displays.
The show was celebrated under the theme: ‘Advancing Rural Development through Agriculture’.