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  • Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, is urging young persons to view agriculture as a career path of choice, as it is a viable income earner that can help change lives.
  • He noted that relevant strategies have been deployed to put the sector on a path of growth and that the time is now ripe for more Jamaicans to get involved.
  • The Minister was speaking at a World Food Day ceremony, held at the Maud McLeod High School in Darliston, Westmoreland, on October 16.

Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, is urging young persons to view agriculture as a career path of choice, as it is a viable income earner that can help change lives.

He noted that relevant strategies have been deployed to put the sector on a path of growth and that the time is now ripe for more Jamaicans to get involved.

The Minister was speaking at a World Food Day ceremony, held at the Maud McLeod High School in Darliston, Westmoreland, on October 16.

“I call upon our young people to get involved in agriculture. I urge them to shun such illicit activities as lotto scamming and get on the agriculture train. Crime does not pay! Jamaica needs enterprising young people who will choose agricultural entrepreneurship as an honest means to income generation,” he said.

The Minister argued that the sector needs more women farmers, adding that they are just as competent as their male counterparts.  “I want them to be involved by planting not just backyard gardens to feed the family, but pursue agriculture as a viable entrepreneurial activity,” he said.

Mr. Kellier pointed out that despite the gains, he is cognizant of the fact that challenges remain in the sector and that more will have to be done to create a playing field where small farmers can compete and be brought into the mainstream.

“The fact of the matter is that there are structural challenges in the agricultural sector, which is largely characterized by a vast majority of small farmers working on small marginal plots of land and producing on a subsistence basis, without any real connection to the market,” he said.

“If we look at the figures we see that 80 per cent  of our farmers have subsistence holdings, and only 20 per cent  have large farms. Only about 30 per cent of our farmers are women and only 2 per cent  of farm lands are owned by women. In terms of age, the average age of our farmers is over 55, while many are nearing retirement and are without a pension plan,” the Minister said.

Mr. Kellier added that the Government, through its social intervention programmes, continues to address these needs, especially in the case of the poor and vulnerable.

“We have social intervention programmes which are specific to the agricultural sector. A major one is the Sugar Transformation Programme, which has to date, with the kind of assistance of the European Union, resulted in over 397 houses being constructed to re-house 876 families who resided in Sugar Estate Barracks,” he noted.

The Minister emphasized that the time has come to look beyond the interventions and to find a way to make the agricultural sector become a sustainable source of wealth creation for residents in the farming communities.