Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, says this year’s Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show must signal to citizens and the rest of the Caribbean that Jamaica is taking a smarter approach to agriculture, given the ongoing issues of food security globally.
The show, which is returning after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to run from July 30 to August 1 in Denbigh, Clarendon.
It is being held under the theme, ‘Eat what you grow, grow what you eat’, and the sub-theme of ‘Food security is everybody’s business as we grow smart and eat smart’.
In delivering the keynote address at the launch of the premier agricultural show in the Caribbean on Wednesday at Jamaica Broilers headquarters in McCooks Pen, St Catherine, Charles Jr reminded Jamaicans that they are living in perilous times and should prepare themselves by eating smarter, as well as growing smarter.
“We are challenged because we live in perilous times where you don’t know what you going to face tomorrow. You don’t know what is gonna come on the news tomorrow, so we have to prepare ourselves,” he asserted.
“We are forcing and calling on Jamaicans to think differently, firstly. The grow smart, eat smart is right here in between our two ears.
“It is a change of thinking and approach, so that no matter what the challenge is that comes around that corner, we have an approach that will allow us to understand the best way to confront it,” he stated.
Even as the Agriculture Ministry strives to increase food production locally, Charles Jr said the ministry will also be focusing on ensuring that wastage is reduced.
“You are cultivating now 30,000 pounds (of crops) with one acre. Next year we want 30,000 and one or more (pounds). It is not always about increasing production, sometimes it is about reducing your waste, so you increase your outcome,” he stressed.
According to him, efforts are also under way to train more persons, especially farmers, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), to assist with improving the sector in light of food security challenges globally.
Additionally, he said the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC) and the 4-H Clubs are taking youngsters not just through the process of becoming farmers, “but to be leaders in ethics and integrity”.
“Those things are going to allow us not just to put the seeds in the soil, but to understand the value of what we are giving to our people,” the minister stated.
In expressing confidence that Jamaica will be able to produce during times of adversity, Charles Jr pointed to the highest levels of production in domestic crops last year.
“Even during the pandemic, we’ve been able to achieve 770,456 tonnes in 2021, moving from 697,679 tonnes in 2020. That means we have had growth in times of adversity,” he stated.
The minister is also seeking to continue on the growth trajectory through the Production Incentive Programme, where more than $1 billion in support has been given to local farmers.
More than 700 acres of land has also been identified to be developed into production zones.
Turning to the 68th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, Charles Jr said it also has a role to play in the ministry’s thrust.
Lenworth Fulton (file photo)
“This has to be the Denbigh where we make a statement to Jamaica and to the region that we are going to take a smarter approach to the agricultural sector (with) steady hands, strategic thinking, execution, partnerships, leadership, action and responsibility,” declared Charles Jr.
“We can achieve all that we have been speaking about, maybe not all in one year, but what we do this year is what will assist our children in 15 years.”
Meanwhile, Charles Jr assured that the Agriculture Ministry and RADA will continue to support local farmers, especially those engaged in small farming.
“We want our farmers to excel in their crop production and diversify into value-added production so that we all can maximise the opportunities and develop those seeds of opportunities in the sector,” he said.
For his part, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Lenworth Fulton, has welcomed the return of the premier national agricultural show.
“We know that we would want this Denbigh to be more a networking event, and that at the end of it, we shall have left there with a resolve to resuscitate and sharpen some sub-sectors, including cassava, sweet potato and legumes, because it is my dream that one day we will see some of the animal feeding coming from cassava and sweet potato,” he said.
In providing an outline of the event’s itinerary, Chief Executive Officer of the JAS, Christopher Emanuel, said a farmer’s run/walk will take place in Clarendon on Saturday, July 23, a week before the Denbigh show.
Day one of the agricultural show on Saturday, July 30, has been designated Minister’s Day, and it will feature the National Farm Queen Coronation, as well as the Youth Day.
Sunday July 31, which is dubbed Governor-General’s Day, will feature a gospel extravaganza.
Prime Minister’s Day will be Monday, August 1, and will feature a showcase of Jamaica’s culture.
Emanuel said throughout the three days, patrons will experience the usual Denbigh village concept, children and family village; health and wellness village, youth in agriculture village, Denbigh farmers’ market, parish pavilion display, horticulture and agriculture displays, along with the latest in agriculture and industrial solutions.