JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, on (Jan. 9) unveiled the newly appointed board members of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which will oversee the Agency’s operations.
The board, which is chaired by farmer and agribusiness consultant, Dr. Omer Thomas, comprises persons of varied backgrounds including agriculture, manufacturing, law, and marketing.
Other members are Albert Shand, Executive Director; farmers: Egbert Miller, Hugh Gentles, Johnathan Lamey, Alvin Murray, Roger Turner, Richard Khouri; Andrew Grey, agro-processor; Novel Quest of Agri-Ventures Group of Companies; Donovan Chen See, Marketing Expert; Annette Henry, attorney-at-law; Stanley Rampair, irrigation and drainage engineer and land utilization specialist; Dr. Charles Douglas, agricultural development economist, and Bob Vassell, marketing expert.
In a charge to the new appointees at his Hope Gardens office, Dr. Tufton reminded them that the organization represents the Ministry and is the first point of contact for farmers, therefore, if the organization fails to perform, then Government fails to perform.
“For me, it is the most important agency involved in applying Government support to the farming community,” he noted, adding that he was careful in selecting the board to draw on persons who are experienced, have engaged in agricultural activities at various levels and understand the industry and how it functions.
According to the Minister, the Government is committed to enhancing the value of extension services to meet the needs of farmers and an assessment and review process will be undertaken, to establish a structure of training and retraining of quality persons.
He noted that over the years, RADA has been marginalized especially in the areas of extension services, which has caused a “credibility issue with farmers”, and encouraged the board to address this issue.
In the meantime, Dr. Tufton indicated that all RADA offices should be equipped with a marketing officer with the primary responsibility of collecting data on farmers, which will inform both farmers and end users. According to the Minister, a major challenge to farmers, is finding suitable markets for their produce. “My assessment is that a large part of the problem involving farmers and end users is a lack of coordination of information. You could have a case where produce is in the field and because of lack or registration of farmers or because of RADA’s ineffectiveness in communicating the data to the relevant end users, that information gets lost and farmers complain,” he pointed out.
He noted further that RADA has to play a critical role in encouraging self sufficiency through backyard gardening, therefore, a backyard kit containing soil nutrients, among other things, is being looked at in order to boost self sufficiency even in small spaces.
Dr. Tufton further informed that the Ministry is in discussion with Development and Peoples Cooperative (PC) Banks in a bid to review the current arrangements for financing agricultural ventures and RADA is expected to assist PC Banks in providing business support as “farming should no longer be considered a welfare activity”.
“RADA should become a one stop operation that can provide an interested farmer with information as to the sources of financing that are available and the procedure that one needs to go through in order to be considered for the financing that might be out there,” he stated.
Other areas of priority the Minister identified were: locations and access of RADA offices; praedial larceny; greenhouse technology; and the need for demonstration plots.

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