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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the government is committed to modernizing the agricultural sector, in order for the country to effectively compete in the international marketplace.
“This government is committed to modernizing agriculture, because that is the only way agriculture will remain viable,” Dr. Tufton said.
He was speaking at the official launch of Farmers’ Month (April), at the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) headquarters in downtown Kingston, today (March 31).
“If you look at the history of Jamaica, post independence and even before that.agriculture and agricultural activity and the Jamaican farmer have made a significant contribution to the development of this country and therefore should be recognized for those achievements.for the critical role they have played in advancing the country,” the Minister said.
However, he said that in terms of contribution to the productive aspect of the economy, agriculture has been on the decline. “Over the last 20 years, we are witnessing a 20 to 25 per cent decline in terms of output,” he pointed out.
Dr. Tufton explained that the sector has undergone numerous challenges, such as dealing with weather conditions, hurricanes, the liberalization of the global marketplace and the sector’s inability to keep pace.
He also noted that the lack of technology used in agricultural production was a hindrance to the growth of the sector. “We have not applied the level of technology that has evolved through a dynamic process of innovation and creativity and invention to agriculture as we should over the years and as a consequence, you have a situation where too often, the Jamaican farmer is still engaged in the same level of technology that was invented 20 years ago. For one reason or another, we have not kept abreast with the new developments that are now available to other farmers elsewhere in the world,” the Minister said.
Another challenge, according to Dr. Tufton, is that many farmers are unwilling to adjust to change and that many are not registered with the central authority, which is the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
The Minister said that despite the challenges, agriculture had the ability to bounce back. “I believe that now more than ever, within the Jamaican landscape, agriculture has an opportunity to bounce back and to become a force within the political and the social and economic landscape of this country,” he stressed.
Dr. Tufton emphasized that more has to be done to get more young persons involved in agriculture, and for them to view agriculture as a viable option.
Farmers’ Month, spearheaded by the JAS, is being celebrated under the theme: ‘Grow what we eat and eat what we grow.’
As part of the activities for the month, there will be an ecumenical service at the St. John’s Methodist Church in Montego Bay on April 6.