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JIS News

The Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) is being merged with the Agricultural Support Services Productive Projects Fund Limited, as part of a restructuring exercise being undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The exercise, which started last year, is aimed at improving service provided by the various agencies of the Ministry, with particular focus on extension, research, marketing, business facilitation, and the training of farmers in best practices and modern technology.
As part of the merger, the ADC will be re-branded and equipped to manage the responsibilities of the Agricultural Support Services Productive Projects Fund Limited, which includes managing and mobilising financing for productive projects and providing support services for producers and exporters to enhance competitiveness. The agency will co-ordinate and support approaches leading to improved methods of financing for farmers and farmers’ groups, in addition to developing and packaging agricultural investment opportunities.
Chairman of the ADC Group of Companies, Dr. David Lowe, in an interview with JIS News, informs that until the merger is finalised, the entities will be referred to as the Newco.
ADC was established under the ADC Act of 1952, with a mandate to encourage, assist and promote the development of agriculture in Jamaica. Dr. Lowe says that since its inception more than 50 years ago, the ADC has been involved in a number of major projects, which includes rice farming in the 1970s and more recently dairy, beef and small stock rearing, and the commercial production of a range of crops such as papaya, pineapple and citrus.
He says that the organisation is looking to build capabilities through funding, partnerships and other measures, and the board, which has been in place since February 2008, has been examining projects that can drive efficiency and increase competitiveness, and is also looking at improving properties within its portfolio, including the Minard Estate in St. Ann.
For now, the agency is placing focus on rice production and the Amity Hall property in St. Catherine has already been identified as being fertile for growing the crop. More than 3,000 acres of rice were cultivated there in the past.
In January of this year, the Agriculture Ministry, in collaboration with Jamaica Broilers Group Limited, established a 25-acre trial plot at Amity Hall to test the Prosequisa Four variety of rice from the Dominican Republic. It is expected that the crop will be ready for reaping by the end of this month, with two tonnes of polished rice per acre to be yielded.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, during his tour of the rice trial plot on May 1, said that of the 100,000 tonnes of rice consumed by Jamaicans annually, his goal is to have at least 10 per cent produced locally, and eventually increased to 25 per cent over the next three years.
The pilot project has provided data on production costs and viability, which are to be converted into investment profiles for distribution. Other necessary tests to the paddy, including palatability, have already been done at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine.
Some 1,000 acres of land at Amity Hall are to be made available to prospective rice investors, through lease arrangements for plots of 10 acres or more. Seeds will also be available for small farmers. Assistance will be provided to farmers, who wish to cultivate rice, by identifying suitable land, technical support and machinery.
Dr. Lowe notes that another area of interest is the fisheries sector, noting that Amity Hall also has the capacity to accommodate shrimp production, and other types of fresh fish. He adds that the feasibility of cassava cultivation at the property is also being looked into.
Dr. Lowe tells JIS News that he is very excited about the prospect of the merger, as he believes that Newco, with the right team, the right set of stakeholders and a commitment to success, “will really make an impact in the short to medium term.”
He further informs that the consolidation of the companies, “is really the merging of resources,” noting that with the global challenges for food security, “we are now facilitating what the (Agriculture) Minister had deemed a very important area for the future of the development of agriculture. So what this new entity will now form is the strengthening position of a pioneering entity.”
He notes that the board will not set expectations that are unrealistic, as there are a lot of things that need to be done to synchronise the two agencies that have operated for a long time independent of each other, which includes the rationalisation of resources, personnel, as well as fixed assets.
Dr. Lowe says that Newco will be self-sufficient, so as not to require funding from the Government to sustain itself. “It is the feeling of the board and the management team that we must move forward on the basis of establishing what could be loosely termed as seed capital to facilitate capacity building…through joint ventures, through commercial successes, and through any other type of innovative approach to agriculture,” he explains.
The ADC serves as the umbrella organisation for the ADC Group of Companies, which also includes the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC) and the Agro 21 Corporation Limited.
The AMC was created to facilitate and assist in the efficient facilitation of marketing for agricultural produce, while the Agro 21 Corporation Limited, which was established in 1985, has the objective to facilitate private sector involvement in agriculture.

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