Speech

Transforming Agriculture Now

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address this Honourable House this afternoon and to update you and the nation on my activities since the last Sectoral Debate.

CONSTITUENCY

Let me begin with my constituency. The constituency of N.W. St. Elizabeth is seeing its best days now. I have a meeting with my councillors, management team, supervisors and key functionaries once per month; the first Saturday of each month.

We are pleased with the developments that have been taking place in the constituency since 2016.

As everyone was aware, we were starved for resources prior to 2016.

Mr. Speaker, we now have water pipes laid from the well at White Hall up to New Market. Over 100 students have graduated through the HEART programme and another 200 will start the programme in September. A robust electrification programme is currently being pursued in a
number of districts. The road programmes have brought great relief to residents of many communities across the constituency.

Agriculture has always been the backbone of N.W. St. Elizabeth and we have a major project coming soon. This project will be a game changer for agriculture across the country.

 

AGRICULTURE – TIME FOR A RENAISSANCE

Mr. Speaker, agriculture needs a renaissance, a renewal. There needs to be a total transformation of the sector in order to confront the systemic challenges that confront it.

Mr. Speaker, we are in the process of addressing and redressing those challenges.

 

CHALLENGES

The continuous cry from the farmers for a market to be provided for most of their crops has been getting louder; they have been suffering at the hands of the praedial thieves. The costs of inputs, especially seeds, are exorbitant. The large amount of produce that is left to rot in the field is sometimes more than what they are able to sell due often to a lack of market. Financing for the young entrepreneur is absent. We are importing produce like carrot, Irish potato, red peas, gungo, onion and cantaloupe; all of which can be grown right here in Jamaica, so that we can be self-sufficient.

There is no structured distribution of produce throughout the island. Mr. Speaker, you will find that there will be breadfruit and mangoes in the east spoiling and scarcity in the west. At the same time, you will find a similar glut of carrot, scallion and thyme in the west and none in the east. And, when there is scarcity in a particular locale, the cost of produce skyrockets.

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