Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, says the Government is committed to moving agriculture forward, by reviving the traditional crops, such as sugar, banana, coffee, cocoa and citrus.
Citing the great economic potential that exists in sugar cane production, the Minister said that currently, there is $658 million in the Cane Expansion Fund, and the Government would increase that sum to not less than $1.7 billion over the next two years.
“Cane farmers are being invited to apply for loans to replant or plant cane at a concessionary interest rate of 5 per cent repayable over five years,” Mr. Clarke urged.
The Minister was addressing thousands of patrons who attended the official opening ceremony for the Hague Agricultural, Food and Livestock Show, held on the show grounds in Hague, Trelawny, on February 22.
The show was held under the theme: ‘Research Development and Marketing for Sustainable Rural Agriculture’.
Mr. Clarke argued that with the sugar sector now completely privatised and with the kind of investments being put up by the private owners in the rehabilitation of factories, the great challenge now is to expand cane production to fully utilise the existing capacity.
“In the case of Trelawny, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Everglades factory at Long Pond and I was impressed at the level of investments in refurbishing the factory, which will be opened next week. The farmers of Trelawny now have every incentive to expand sugar cane production, and the Cane Expansion Fund will be at your disposal,” the Minister informed.
Mr. Clarke gave details of support for displaced cane farmers and workers. “The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be spending an estimated $80 million to relocate residents of Arcadia, Georgia, Vale Royal, Hampden and Ettingdon Sugar Estate to two new settlements at Spicy Hill and Gravel Hill. The project will see 97 persons relocated to 39 housing solutions at the two locations, who were formerly living in barracks,” the Minister said.
“In keeping with our commitment to provide jobs, we will be spending some $96 million to create an agro park in Ettingdon. In the Agro Park, lands with appropriate infrastructure, such as irrigation, will be allocated to farmers with dedicated technical and marketing support and with production underpinned by contracts from end-users,” Mr. Clarke added.
He emphasised that the real potential for agricultural growth going forward, is to revive the traditional crops.
In his address, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Glendon Harris, said that there is urgent need for all citizens to view agriculture as priority for continued development in the country.
“Agriculture must be seen as very essential to the country’s economic stability, as it presently accounts for 220,000 direct employments within the country’s workforce,” the President emphasised.
Mr. Harris said he was pleased with the increased number of exhibitors and affiliated organisations which participated in the show.
By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter