Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, says he and his team are leading the charge to change the face and mindset of agriculture in Jamaica.
In addressing patrons at the first day of the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show now back in Clarendon after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Charles Jr said the focus is to take farming to higher levels of strategy and efficiency that will inspire more youth into the profession and make it worth their while there.
The minister who cited that for more than two years the overall farming and fisheries community has been battling the combined scourge of “climate (change), COVID and criminals”, said the way out is to be smarter in planning and implementing solutions to overcome whatever challenges come.
He pointed to the resurgent Denbigh Show – the 68th edition – as proof that amid intense adversities, the farming community, including with the support and guidance of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), organisers of the show, has the capacity to overcome huge odds.
“The JAS may be old, but it certainly not cold, having rebounded with a show that is poised to be bigger and better than ever,” declared the minister.
He commended farmers and fisher folks for fighting through the challenges, and said the overall results of their efforts have been coming through, with significantly increased production and output in many areas of the sector.
Now he said the value-added chain has to be the order of the day in farming, with wastage to become the exception, rather than the norm.
Charles Jr also supported a call from his Opposition counterpart, People’s National Party (PNP) Shadow Spokesman Lothian Cousins, for more structured and substantial funding of the JAS by the Government going forward, but indicated that the longstanding farmers’ organisation also needs to dig deeper in its own efforts to foster and sustain its independence.
The minister said a new era has emerge in the local agricultural sector, with growing smart being at the heart of the focus. He said much more technology and smarter thinking are being brought on board farm operations, and said the figures are now speaking for themselves in terms of production and exportation levels across the sector.
He said as a consequence, he is fortunate to be not relying on promises to entreat young people into agriculture, but instead, the realities of how smart farming is and will continue to be a successful economic avenue for many Jamaicans.
He also cited an average 18 per cent reduction in fertiliser prices that was achieved by his team in the face of sharply increased price levels as a result of global trade and geopolitical issues. He said realising the cost reduction for the critical farm input came from smart and purposeful application and a spirit of national cooperation in dialogue with the distributors.
More details are to come on some of the new technologies that are presently being implemented in agriculture locally.