Revamped Agricultural Modernisation Programme coming Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, has indicated that there will be a revamped Agricultural Modernisation Programme following concerns regarding monies allocated for the project being cut from the ministry’s budget.

Charles is contending that if the programme had been implemented, it would have not provided value for money or useful value to local farmers.

The minister’s statements came after South East St Ann Member of Parliament (MP), Lisa Hanna, took issue with Wednesday’s disclosure by Finance Ministry officials before the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), that $150 million that had been allocated for the programme under the Agriculture Ministry, was cut.

The project duration was scheduled to run from April 2022 to March 2027, with its funding through the Jamaican Government and a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The Agricultural Modernisation Programme was aimed at increasing productivity and income for small farmers, among other things.

According to Hanna, “various ministers of agriculture came to the House (of Representatives) to speak glowingly about the modernisation project and how it was going to help farmers.

“I am angry now because my farmers need help – farmers across the board need help.

Lisa Hanna

“Agriculture is one of the few industries that we have a global competitive advantage in, and why is it that we take such scant regard towards our farmers in this country?” questioned Hanna then.

But a day following Hanna’s comments, Charles, speaking at a Rotary Club of Mandeville ceremony in Manchester, defended the decision relative to the Agricultural Modernisation Programme.

“We took the decision to speak with the consultants and say to them, ‘If we’re gonna take a US$25 million loan, we need to adjust this programme to make sure that it is providing the support we need for our small farmers, and providing the support for money to be targeted to build up our sector,” he stated.

“The consultants told us that was not possible, because they had already set the structure, and so, we could not be able to make more than minor adjustments to the programme, and so, we decided, ‘No’,” stated Charles.

A replacement programme is to be crafted, advised the minister.

This, he said, will “focus on strategic priorities that we have now as a country, because what we wanted in 2017, when the discussions started, is very different in what we need in 2023.

“I want to say that to you, so you can be assured that your Government is focused on making decisions that make sense, and not just decisions that sound like they’re sensible,” Charles sought to assure.

In noting Hanna’s concerns raised in Parliament, the minister said: “I don’t say that to chastise my Opposition colleague, because I believe that the comments were made with good intentions.”