Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, says middlemen who buy farm produce cheap and sell them at exorbitant prices should get out of the system or pay the farmers more.
Addressing farmers at the New Forest-Duff House Agro Park on Friday, April 13, the Minister said that “when the middlemen come and buy from you, you get little or nothing for your product”.
“It does not matter which crop it is, the middlemen make all the profit. I say to all of them, if they cannot pay the farmers a better price, we are going to do something to bypass them,” he added.
The Minister told the farmers that he would be having discussions with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a large company with a distribution network across the island, with the objective of getting that entity to buy cash crops from farmers for distribution islandwide.
Mr. Hutchinson pledged to return to the farmers with some good news soon.
He urged them not to cut back on production. “This Government intends to grow agriculture, and I have set a target that by the end of this year, we must be growing agriculture by a minimum of 20 per cent,” the Minister said.
Mr. Hutchinson said that the target would not be achieved if they reduce production, so a way must be found to make it worthwhile for the farmers to produce more.
He also pledged to do something about the condition of the farm roads. Coming out of consultations with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Mr. Hutchinson said that funding would be put in place to asphalt some of the roads this year.
The Minister lauded the farmers who are engaged at the agro park, noting that it is the leading one in the island.
He said the Duff House-New Forest farming area is an example of what is needed to drive agriculture.
The predominantly scallion-growing agro park has recovered from last year’s attack of the beet army worm and is now experiencing a bumper crop, which has led to a drastic reduction in price.