Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the Government would be reviewing the land use policy this year, in an effort to support and strengthen farming and agricultural activities across Jamaica.
“We are going to have to, as a country, spend more time recognising the importance of preserving our resources in order to make agriculture bigger and better. Our agricultural lands must be given greater levels of recognition and protection, therefore we are going to do a serious review of our land use policy,” Dr. Tufton said.
He was addressing the 55th Anniversary of the Hague Agricultural and Livestock Show, which was held on the Hague Show grounds near Falmouth in Trelawny, on February 17, under the theme: ‘Sustaining local agriculture through productivity, food security and improved marketing’.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (left), admires a ‘prized’ chicken held by champion farmer, Mr. Carlton Smith (Right), as he toured the display booths and livestock area at the Hague Agricultural Show, in Hague, Trelawny, on February 17.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that there were some 2.7 million acres of land in the country, of which 17 per cent or 450,000 acres were considered arable, that could produce the best results for the efforts of the country’s farmers.
“We have to, as a country, at the level of policy, do more to ensure that the food security and livelihood of our farmers are given a chance to prosper and expand, in a climate where we need to do more to produce for ourselves. We are going to finalise what has already been started, which is a revision and development of a new agricultural land use policy. It is going to ensure that those lands are given protection by legislation, to avoid development from taking place, of a nature that will compromise or undermine the availability of these lands,” the Minister said.
“We are going to have a serious talk with some of our developers. I believe that the time has come for us to say ‘listen, if these lands are limited, if there are other lands which are marginal, when we are doing the developments, we are going to look at these marginal lands, working with them for their development and leave the agricultural lands for agriculture, so that we can get the best out of these lands in the interest of our farmers and the country’s economy,” Dr. Tufton argued.
He explained that the new policy would also address all leasing arrangements, indicating that there were many persons in possession of government owned agricultural lands under leasing arrangements, who were not engaged in agricultural production.
“One of the things the Ministry has started doing, is reviewing those leases, and those persons who have these lands and are not using them, will have to come in and talk to us. We are going to show you the opportunities available and give you limited time to start the process of engaging these lands. If these lands are not engaged, then we will be taking the necessary actions to take the lands from you and give them to those persons who are willing to develop the lands and create value in the interest of agriculture. We want to ensure that these lands are protected, but at the same time used for agricultural purposes,” Dr. Tufton emphasised.