Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that if agriculture is to progress in Jamaica, the government will have to revisit the issue of land use.
He noted that Jamaica has approximately 1.1 million hectares of land, and of that amount some 388,000 hectares are considered arable. Less than 50 per cent of the arable lands is being utilised for agricultural purposes.
“That is not a good piece of statistic to refer to in a time when we are challenged to provide more food,” Dr. Tufton stated, as he addressed the St. Thomas Co-Operative Credit Union and partners project media conference held today (Oct. 15) at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
He argued that if the arable lands are put into production, Jamaica will be able to minimise the dependence on others to support its food needs. “Right now, 60 per cent of our foods are imported according to Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), and a lot of those food items can be produced locally,” Dr. Tufton stated.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (left), exchanges pleasantries with Head of Delegation of the European Union Commission to Jamaica, Ambassador, Dr. Marco Mazzocchi Alemanni, as they arrive for the St. Thomas Co-Operative Credit Union and partners media conference, held on October 15, at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston.
He admitted that there are a number of variables, which make it difficult to fully utilise the 388,000 hectares of arable lands, including limited access to water, and soil profile, which makes some areas less suited for certain types of crops.
He informed that the Ministry is carrying out a profile of all agricultural lands across the country, to determine suitability. The profile will cover lands that are privately- owned and those that are government controlled and leased.
Dr. Tufton informed that a fair amount of these lands are government lands that have been leased for many years and in some instances, the lands are idle.
“Where it is owned by government and leased.and not being utilised, we are now reviewing these leases to determine what were the terms of these leases in order to determine how best to encourage the productive engagement of these lands,” he indicated.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (right), is greeted by Project Manager, St. Thomas Co-operative Credit Union, Mr. Jairzzenho Bailey, at the St. Thomas Co-Operative Credit Union and partners media conference, held on October 15, at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston.
He said that private persons, who have leased government lands, will be invited “to come in and discuss what their intentions are if these lands are currently not being utilised. If that fails, then we are going to move to the next phase, which is to take whatever course of action that is necessary in order to retrieve those lands and make it available to Jamaicans, who are willing to engage the lands productively.”
The Agriculture Minister noted the need for a land use policy, which will enable the country to restructure and reform agriculture for greater production and productivity.
“We need to review how government lands are leased, we need to standardise these leases to ensure that they are linked to a development plan, a business plan and that there are timetables attached to these business plans to ensure that there is a performance criterion, which these lands can be assessed and these leases continued,” he pointed out.