JIS News

President of the Kingston and St. Andrew (KSA) branch association of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, has said that the society’s Eat Jamaican campaign has been a major contributor to the growth in agricultural production since last year.
“If we have no major disaster, growth in domestic agricultural production could end up at 10% this year, which would be a significant recovery from Hurricane Gustav, and it shows that farmers will respond if they get the support,” Senator Grant told JIS News.
Both the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) have highlighted agriculture, as the brightest spark in the Jamaican economy since the advent of the global economic crisis.
Senator Grant, the former JAS president who is now its first vice-president, said that these developments have helped to gain recognition for Jamaican farmers, who were once considered the “Cinderellas” of the economy. However, he expressed some disappointment that, in the meantime, agriculture’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dipped by half from 10% in the 60s.
“But, we will be shifting into a new gear, to put rural people and rural development at the forefront of policy making, and to ensure that there is enough support to make this growth sustainable,” he told rural St. Andrew farmers attending the JAS/KSA Leader’s Forum, at the society’s head office, Church Street, Kingston on Saturday (September 12).
He said that the JAS is also happy that an initiative, similar to the agricultural development fund proposed by the society to boost rural/agricultural development, has been approved by the Cabinet and is slated to be introduced soon.
He said that the JAS/KSA has also been promoting the Ministry’s school garden programme, by adopting some Corporate Area schools, including Ardenne High, St. Andrew High and the School of Hope, to encourage support for farming from school age.
Senator Grant noted that agriculture increased by 9.2 percent during the last reported quarter, April-June, 2009, according to both the PIOJ and the BOJ. The improved performance reflecting both recovery from Hurricane Dean (2007) and Tropical Storm Gustav (2008), as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Productivity Programme and efforts, led by the JAS, to promote the eating of Jamaican grown foods.
The growth was driven by increased output of 19.4 per cent in agricultural crops, consisting mainly of domestic food crops and animal farming. The sector’s growth reflected increases in both domestic and export crop production.
Speaking at the same forum, newly elected JAS President, Glendon Harris, said that his administration would emphasise team work and “keeping the JAS candle burning.”
He commended the KSA branch on its UNDP supported Green House project, but challenged the association to improve the efficiency of coffee production. He also announced that the JAS would increase activities at Denbigh showground, Clarendon, to ensure maximum use of the facility.
Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Ronald Thwaites, who also spoke, said that he was looking towards a resurgent JAS and KSA branch society. The forum was chaired by vice-president of the KSA branch society, Paul Burgess.

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