KINGSTON — Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, says he has embarked on building a coalition of small and large players in the agricultural sector to ensure that farming gets the attention it needs to keep it buoyant.
“Agriculture is in good hands, I have started a series of consultations with stakeholders, I have called in the boards and organizations. I have had 17 parish meetings, speaking to a wide range of farmers and producers in their parishes to build consensus toward solutions. It has to be a coalition, it has to be a partnership,” the Minister said in a post-Denbigh 2011 interview with JIS News.
“We have sat with the JAS and we are moving forward, because it is for the benefit of Jamaica. I have consulted with a number of groups, and that is why we have come up with Project Land for National Development,” he went on.
“It is a programme of this Government to provide titles to the 588,000 untitled parcels of land. What this project is going to do is to finally give independence, in its real and true sense, to the land owner who has access to land, but no title. We understand that that land is the foundation of wealth, and if you don’t sort that out, the farmer can’t barrow to invest, so we are unlocking that huge potential,” he added.
He informed that farmers engaged in certain production will be seeing cheaper loans as there will be a loan at 6 percent, through the PC Banks for farmers producing Irish Potatoes and onions. A 4 percent loan will also be available for persons getting into dairy, there are discussions with Jamaica National and a 5 percent loan for persons producing for the tourism sector will also be available, Montague said.
On the issue of security for farmers’ produce, he said that an identification system, which his ministry and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) have worked on, will deal with the challenge of praedial larceny.
“We have realized that RADA has registered 148,000 farmers, but they have only issued 48,000 identification cards. I have instructed RADA and the ministry to work together so that, by the end of October, we will be issuing 100,000 ID cards and, along with the Parish Councils, we are going to use the IDs as a basis to tackle praedial larceny,” he said.
By GARFIELD L. ANGUS, JIS Reporter