Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw (right), applauds the unveiling of a plaque at the livestock barn named in honour of Dr Thomas Lecky, at the 66th Annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in May Pen, Clarendon on Saturday, August 4, 2018. Others (from left) are President-elect, Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Lenworth Fulton; outgoing President, JAS, Norman Grant; and Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, Dr. Fenton Ferguson. The Denbigh Show was held from August 4 to 6 under the theme ‘Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow: Agriculture, Securing Our Future’.
Pleased to be here once again at the Denbigh Agricultural Show, which I consider an old stomping ground. And pleased to address you in my new capacity, which includes portfolio responsibility for Agriculture.
ROLE OF AGRICULTURE
As we continue to strive towards our development goals, and as we seek to grow the economy, I think we are beginning to realize and to accept that our wealth is in the soil and agriculture is the catalyst for the transformation of our economy and the inclusive growth we are determined to achieve.
We recognize that there are several persistent challenges and constraints facing the agricultural sector, chief among these, of course, being the impact of climate change.
Climate change is a global challenge right now. At the recent G20 Meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Argentina, we all agreed that climate change and the need for climate adaptation and mitigation is not a fiction, but a reality we live with daily.
It is imperative that we pursue all initiatives to mitigate the cycle of flood one season and drought the next that is beginning to have a sustained depreciating impact on agricultural production.
Adverse weather conditions have led to some $1 billion in losses in the sector over the past two years.
Over the past five years, the agriculture sector in the Caribbean has been affected by shifts in weather patterns. We have experienced significant episodes of prolonged droughts, frequent intense rainfall, flooding and hurricanes. Climate-related natural disasters, especially hurricane and drought, could result in losses estimated at US$22 billion annually by 2050 throughout the Caribbean.
In this regard, the urgent implementation of climate-smart strategies is a top priority for the agriculture sector in order to achieve increased and sustainable production.
To this end, we have identified the following as urgent and critical imperatives for the sector:
1. Provision of more irrigation systems
2. Implementing more drought-resistant measures such as water harvesting and storage.
3. Application of new technologies to include drones and alternative energy sources
4. Coordinated value chain-driven partnerships and linkages between agriculture and industry
5. Increasing our efforts to establish agricultural insurance schemes
IRRIGATION AND WATER MANAGEMENT
The Essex Valley Agriculture Development represents one of, if not the single largest investment in irrigation infrastructure in Jamaica.
It is worth repeating that grant funding from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF) administered through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in an amount equivalent to £35,515 million will go towards the cost of the Essex Valley Agricultural Development Project.
Procurement activities towards the start-up of the project are now well under way and our expectations are that within the next three months, we should be signing the first three contracts to get this revolutionary project off the ground.
The project will positively impact the livelihoods of over 700 farmers on 718 hectares of land through the provision of irrigation water and improved access to local and global agricultural markets.
In addition to the infrastructure, the project is also targeting:
2. Enhanced Agricultural Production, Marketing Facilities and Systems
This will include:
i. Design and construction of an administrative building, pack house and Global GAP facilities with disability accessible infrastructure in support of compliance with Global GAP certification
ii. Training of farmers, farmer organisations, extension agents and other stakeholders in Global GAP and location-specific, gender-equitable, climate-smart agricultural best practices.
iii. Conducting a Crop Vulnerability Assessment for Essex Valley in order to determine and mitigate the likely impact of climate change on crops and cropping systems through climate-smart agricultural practices.
In terms of energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy, the project will also
design and construct a renewable energy solution aligned to the requirements of the project, including the development of a 3.1 megawatt photovoltaic power supply system for the irrigation network, among other things.
And, I deliberately highlight the Essex Valley Project, today, because that project stands as a model for the future of agricultural production in Jamaica.
Interestingly, the Essex Valley project also helps to underscore the importance of both enhanced energy security and food security to the future viability of our economy and our country. .
Jamaica’s balance of payment/trade deficit in 2017 was US$4.5 billion. Import costs for machinery and transport, fuel and for food utilize the lion’s share of our foreign exchange expenditure at 25.3%, 24.5% and 14.5 %, respectively.
We note that food imports continue to fall, decreasing by 1.3%.in the last year, but that they still continue to hover around the $100 billion mark. That, in my estimation, is still too much to spend on importing food.
We have to manage our human and natural resources in such a manner as to become more self-reliant, especially when it comes to energy needs and our food and nutrition needs.
We have the resources of our people; we have the land and we can utilize the energy of the sun. And we must utilize these resources efficiently to increase our levels of production and productivity.
We cannot continue to import food at the levels we currently do.
History is replete with evidence of the importance of securing one’s own domestic food supply.
Lest we forget: In 2008, a world food crisis was declared as a result of the sharp increase in major agricultural commodity prices between 2006 and 2008. These increases resulted in food riots and social instability in several countries and drove over 100 million people into poverty worldwide.
Currently, there are emerging signs of disquiet in the international marketplace as it relates to the global trade in food: For example, the US Government has announced a US$12 billion subsidy to its farmers in the face of pushback from its trading partners to tariffs being imposed.
We note the adverts that have appeared in our own local media promoting US poultry in Jamaica. These are signs of the shifts in global food markets and it is important that we take these signs seriously and build our own resilience and our own capacity to for food security and self-sufficiency.
So whereas we applaud the levels of self-sufficiency in local products like chicken meat and eggs, I, as Minister am very concerned at the volume of requests for importation of agricultural goods, ranging from coffee through to coconut and peppers, into Jamaica.
In light of this, we have to ask ourselves, how will we disentangle ourselves from the overreliance on imported goods and food?
We all have a part to play. I see my own task and my mission at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries as that of engaging all efforts to increase local production.
We see ourselves as problem solvers and we want our partners – from the small potato farmer over in Christiana, the coffee farmer in the Blue Mountains, the big hotelier in Negril and the captains of industry in Kingston to join us in this effort to use agriculture to secure the future of Jamaica!
It is for that reason that I wish to commend our farmers, large and small, across the length and breadth of Jamaica. Your work, your attitude and your ethic spell resilience and it is that aspect of the Jamaican ethos that we wish to recommend to our young people, as together we work towards securing our future!
On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica I wish to thank all our farmers who by dint of hard work and their total commitment and in spite of all the daily challenges have achieved a 17.6 per cent growth rate in the sector for the quarter ending June 2018.
I also wish to salute our large private sector investors who have invested some $30 billion in the agriculture and agro-industry sectors last year.
If we are to utilise agriculture to secure our future as a nation, we will need these large enterprises to continue to invest. And so I encourage them to continue their game-changing efforts in collaborating with our small farmers in the mother–satellite farm concept to promote production in a structured and sustainable manner.
And I also have a word of encouragement and appeal to our hoteliers:
I wish to appeal again to our hoteliers to increase their demand for local goods and services and particularly our local produce.
The Jamaican brand is strong; our produce and products are of such exceptional quality that we must use these advantages to our long-term benefit to create wealth for us and for future generations!
LAND UTILISATION PROGRAMME
As Government, we are conscious of our own role. We recognize that sustainable growth in the agricultural sector begins with greater and more efficient utilization of available lands. Too many acres still lie idle and unproductive. That is simply unacceptable.
And so it is for this reason that I have made it my duty to lead the thrust to put those idle lands into cultivation. We have earmarked some 8,359 hectares, including 4,313 hectares which are marginal and in need of rehabilitation in St Catherine and this very parish of Clarendon, being returned by the Chinese investors to the GOJ for other agricultural activities, besides sugar cane.
I have made the call, loud and clear for investors to come on board and, today, I can report that we have received a flood of applications.
We mean business when it comes to making good use of good lands and so I have mandated the SCJ Holdings to take charge of the necessary arrangements for leasing these prime agricultural lands, bearing in mind that we are giving preference to investments embracing the mother farm/satellite farm concept.
And even as I speak of the mother farm/satellite farm concept, I wish to make a few comments on the persistent plaque of praedial larceny and the obstacle it continues to pose to investment in the sector.
I am aware that since the establishment of the prevention unit in this Ministry several areas of success have been achieved but the problem still persists. I am today, sounding a warning to the praedial thieves that we are coming after them and we are going to stomp out praedial larceny.
We have idle lands and I say to them that they, with their idle hands, can come and work those lands. But, if they choose to continue to reap what they don’t sow, then we will certainly be ramping up our efforts in collaboration with the police and the judiciary to enforce the maximum punishment, under the law! Agriculture is too serious a business and our farmers work too hard to have their efforts plundered by thieves!
The amalgamation of Agriculture and Fisheries with Industry and Commerce was a deliberate move on the part of this Administration. We now have these related sectors under one roof in order to increase the ease of doing business in such a way as to transform agriculture to include more value added.
I believe we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour. The Ministry’s strategic priorities are therefore focused on facilitating production and productivity in agriculture, agro-processing, livestock and fisheries, the creative industries and, manufacturing while nurturing the development of new industries such as cannabis.
Today, we celebrate our farmers. Thank you and God bless you all and bless Jamaica, land we love!
Welcome to the official website of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) has been charged with the responsibility of driving the integration of the production of primary agricultural produce along all the stages of the supply chain through to value added and facilitating full commercialization of outputs of the agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors.
We have, therefore, placed much energy and enthusiasm into the development of this website to provide timely information on the Ministry, our agencies and programmes.
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