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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, has said that the 12 per cent growth in agriculture in 2009 resulted in the creation of 10,000 new jobs, bringing total employment in the sector to 235,000.
“It is important for us to know and remind ourselves of the importance of the agricultural sector. That it contributes, through the production of our farmers across the country, some $110 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GPD) for our country,” Mr. Shaw said as he closed the 2010/11 Budget Debate on Wednesday (April 21) at Gordon House.
The Finance Minister said growth in the industry has been facilitated by deliberate and strategic interventions by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, including a doubling of extension officers and the formation of a marketing unit with 18 officers.
Growth in the industry was also achieved through the provision of inputs support to farmers, through a production and productivity programme costing some $46 million, the Financial Access for Responsible Members (F.A.R.M) project which cost $86.3 million and a $420.2 million subsidy for irrigation water.
The agricultural sector has recorded six consecutive quarters of growth since July 2008, and Mr. Shaw said that the 12 per cent growth in 2009 was largely underpinned by a 22 per cent growth in the domestic food crop sector.
“This growth has now put production levels above the pre-hurricane Dean and tropical storm ‘Gustav’ levels,” he said.
Food imports fell by US$70 million in 2009, reflecting the growth in domestic agriculture. Mr. Shaw said growth in the industry is expected to continue in 2010/11, as the Ministry continues to provide support to the farmers.
“The Minister of Agriculture and myself have teamed up. We have decided that we are not going to grant waivers to people for things that can be produced here,” he said.