JIS News

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has said that the growth and development of the country’s agricultural sector was critical in stemming rural under-development. “Many of the social ills now experienced in the urban area, stem from the neglect of the rural areas. Continued rural under-development leads to the rural-urban drift. This deprives the rural areas of the strength and vitality of its young people. It puts additional pressure on the urban areas and hampers the development of the country. The key to this lies in the growth and development of the agricultural sector,” she pointed out. Mrs. Simpson Miller was making her contribution to the 2007/08 Budget Debate, yesterday (May 1), in the House of Representatives.
Pointing to efforts by the Government to spur agricultural development, the Prime Minister noted that in the last fiscal year the government spent over $133 million to promote and develop programmes, such as beekeeping, orchard crops, pig and sheep rearing, and the hi-tech production of vegetables for the hotel trade.
Under these programmes, “farmers were trained, loans and inputs, as well as business facilitation and marketing services were provided (and) critical infrastructure was put in place,” she said.
In addition, several banana farmers have benefited from the European Union’s banana support programme. “We have spent nearly $323 million to support the sector and to strengthen its competitiveness,” the Prime Minister said.
Continuing, she informed the House that some $2.9 billion was allocated to support the Sugar Company of Jamaica and to boost production levels. “We invest in the sugar industry because this industry is vital to the livelihoods of tens of thousands of sugar workers and their families. Rural Jamaica would be devastated, with staggering consequences for the nation, if we allow the sugar industry to die.
Diversification yes, death no!” she asserted. Mrs. Simpson Miller also cited the Ministry of Agriculture and Land’s $1.7 billion Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), as another effort by the Jamaican Government during the last fiscal year to improve the competitiveness of Jamaica’s agriculture.
According to the Prime Minister, over $402 million of the $1.7 billion has been allocated as grants for certain projects and hundreds of farmers have benefited.
“One thousand three hundred and sixty-one farmers have been trained and 2,000 farmers have received special assistance under the programme. These projects are putting idle and under-utilized lands to work, increasing agricultural production, improving infrastructure and training, while helping to reduce rural youth unemployment,” he noted.

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