Agriculture minister wants farmers to think like businessmen
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) has created a unit geared specifically at dealing with micro, small and medium-size entities (MSMEs) and also tasked with assisting small farmers to change their mindset from subsistence producers to that of business professionals.
While the unit, which became operational in February, does not work directly with farmers in terms of technical assistance, it will drive the policy direction to effect the change, representatives of the MICAF said at a Gleaner Editors' Forum this week.
"Each of them are businessmen in their own right but farmers, over the years, have not considered themselves business people in the full sense of the word. You hear somebody say, 'Well, I am not a businessman, I am a farmer.' We are trying to change that culture and encourage them to see themselves as business people'," said Minister Karl Samuda.
The MSME unit, headed by Andrene Collings, will work with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) and Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to "develop that sector," Samuda said.
"They operate for a profit, so they really are a business entity. The idea is to bring the outreach of business services to the farming community, using RADA and JBDC to provide technical assistance and training, starting with the agro-parks, so that they can be exposed to the fundamentals of the structure of business," Collings added.
On the whole, the concept of the small and micro business has been expanded, Samuda said, noting that MICAF will facilitate "rapid development, less bureaucracy and attention to the details in the shortest possible time.
"Farmers need to change their outlook in terms of what they do and now view themselves as small business people, with all the principles of good business being applied to them," he said.
Some 220,000 farmers exist islandwide, but only 160,000 registered with RADA, principal director Shaun Bough told the forum.
"We want to encourage farmers, and that can be done when they see there is a consistency in support mechanism that we are trying to formulate," Samuda said.