Restructuring of the Agriculture Ministry will be Accelerated this Fiscal Year

Agriculture and Lands Minister, Roger Clarke, has said that the process to restructure the Ministry to make it more efficient, businesslike and customer friendly will be accelerated this fiscal year.
The Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2007/08 Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday (April 18), informed that the restructuring effort was part of a wider initiative to transform the agriculture industry and to create “a shift in orientation from subsistence agriculture and mendicancy to an approach that regards agriculture as a business”.
As part of the process, the Fisheries Division and the Forestry Department will be converted into Executive Agencies to give these entities increased autonomy, while simultaneously demanding greater levels of accountability. “This process is well on the way as we are in the process of recruiting the Chief Executive Officers,” Minister Clarke told the House.
He noted that in the case of the Fisheries Division, work is being accelerated on the new Fisheries Act, to provide the regulatory framework necessary for the development of a modern fisheries sector.
Turning to other departments, Minister Clarke informed that the World Animal Health Organisation and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture have completed a comprehensive assessment of the Veterinary Services Division and are in the process of finalizing recommendations for the restructuring of the Division.
“The major thrust of these reforms is to improve customer service, strengthen our capacity for surveillance, retool the laboratories and facilities to attain international standards and expand veterinary services to the myriads of small farmers, who cannot now access this service,” he told the House.
Continuing, Mr. Clarke noted that “the government has the responsibility to not only ensure that our exports are safe, but that the conditions under which animals are slaughtered and meat and fish are processed have significantly improved. The proposed study of slaughtering and meat processing facilities will address these concerns”.
The process to transform the Ministry will also include a study on all the entities that provide services to farmers, which will be undertaken in collaboration with the Development Bank of Jamaica.
The aim of this study, the Minister said, is to rationalize the provision of service to farmers by creating a one-stop facility that provides technical expansion, marketing and business services in an integrated way. However, he pointed out that this will result in the possible closure of a number of entities that duplicate each other and which have become defunct.
These entities include the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA); Agriculture Credit Board; Agricultural Development Corporation; Marketing and Credit Division; Research and Development Division; Agri-Business Council; and the Agricultural Marketing Corporation.
With regard to the Research and Development Division, Mr. Clarke noted that this entity will be revamped to be more demand-driven and responsive to the needs of the sector.

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