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President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, is hoping for the inclusion of an agricultural “stimulus package” in the 2009/2010 Estimates of Expenditure.
Senator Grant also welcomed the Government’s decision on (April 6) to rename the Ministry of Agriculture as Agriculture and Fisheries, noting that the name change suggested a much anticipated increased focus on the fishing industry in 2009/2010.
“We have been importing a tremendous amount of fish, and I believe that there is a great opportunity now to expand our fishing industry,” he said.
Addressing the launch of Farmers’ Month, at the JAS’ downtown Kingston office, Senator Grant explained that his position was based on the role which the sector could play in stabilising the economy, against the background of the prevailing economic downturn.
Finance and Public Service Minister, Audley Shaw, will table the Estimates of Expenditure in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (April 7), following the State Opening of Parliament.
“We strongly suggest that the sector be one of those that (should) be given priority, as it relates to the crisis that we are going through, at least for the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.
“We are saying that now, more than ever, the farmers, the JAS and the sector have important roles in stabilising our economy and finding food to feed our people,” he added.
Senator Grant said that “unending” obstacles, such as natural disasters and local and global economic challenges which a number of farmers are facing, has led to 61 percent of the food consumed locally, since 2008, being imported at a cost of close to US$800 million.
Despite the circumstances, the farmers have remained steadfast ,however, he said.
The JAS President also commended the efforts of Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, in pursuing and implementing initiatives to assist the farmers.
These include increased agricultural extension services and advanced use of technology. He said that the JAS is lending its full support to these efforts, and expressed optimism that even more assistance would come.
“We are confident that, when the budget is unveiled, we will certainly be seeing a stimulus package, where the agricultural sector can play a pivotal role in creating jobs, increasing food production and cutting down food import bill,” Senator Grant said, as he pledged the co-operation of the JAS in achieving those goals.
Over 100 activities are planned by the JAS in observance of April as Farmers’ Month. The activities are being undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), and include agricultural shows, training seminars, awards banquets, and church services.

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