Mr. Speaker, I am sure that we will all agree that the year 2020 will be etched in our individual and collective memory as a historic experience of monumental and unprecedented proportions.
Indeed, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has placed us front and centre in confronting our strengths, our weaknesses, threats and opportunities, not just as individuals, but as organisations and, as a matter of fact, as a global community.
I also believe, Mr. Speaker, that this little island of ours has managed to stand tall and tallawah during this season of the coronavirus.
Mr. Speaker, as I address this Honourable House this afternoon, it is my duty and my obligation to thank the Almighty for his favour; I also wish to publicly record my gratitude to my family, Cabinet colleagues, led by the Most Honourable Prime Minister, my constituency and my colleague Ministers and staff in the portfolio departments and agencies at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF).
Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity to salute the over 230,000 small farmers of Jamaica; the over 20,000 fisher folk; our large investors in the agricultural sector and the thousands of entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium sized businesses as well as our large business enterprises; our manufacturers, exporters, traders and investors who, through thick and through thin, have helped us to sustain our economy and our way of life.
Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is not a small Ministry and so, in the time allotted to me today, I will only be able to present some of the highlights. I, therefore, refer you, Sir, and the members of the Honourable House to the accompanying Annual Report, which provides greater details of the work of the 32 agencies and 31 divisions that constitute the MICAF.
Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it very clear that:
• Food Security and Import Substitution
• The Resilience of our industries, including the MSMEs
• Digitalization of our business systems and
• The ability to innovate and to be agile
are of paramount importance to the future and sustainability of our local economy.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that certain gaps in the architecture of how we do business have been highlighted by COVID-19.
The challenge and the opportunity are to address these gaps. As we work towards Vision 2030, Mr. Speaker, our vision in 2020 is, therefore, to secure opportunities for stronger, bigger and better Jamaican industries as we stimulate renewed growth.
So in my presentation today, even as we reflect on business before and during COVID-19, I want the greatest focus to be placed on our plans and efforts to stimulate growth as we look to the future and work towards stronger, better and more resilient Jamaican industries in agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and the services sector. Let us begin with Agriculture, Mr Speaker.Download Full Speech