Sun | Nov 18, 2018

Cabinet weighs in on Samuda, CIB gridlock

Published:Friday | March 2, 2018 | 12:06 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer
Roger Turner (right), managing director of Tulloch Estates, St Catherine, listens attentively as Christopher Gentles, chairman of the Coconut Industry Board (CIB), explains that the Cabinet has directed Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte to apply to the courts for a ruling as to who really owns the estimated $4 billion dividend earnings from Seprod shares.

The process has formally begun to have the courts break the deadlock over ownership rights to the estimated $4 billion in Seprod share dividend earnings, now under the stewardship of the Coconut Industry Board (CIB) and which Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, contends rightfully belongs to the State.

"Cabinet has recommended that a decision be taken. It has recommended that the attorney general apply to the courts for a decision regarding the ownership of the Seprod shares," Christopher Gentles, chairman of the CIB, yesterday told a stakeholder seminar looking at the finance and investment prospects for the development of the regional coconut industry.

"It's common knowledge that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Coconut Industry Board have some significant differences, and it is the 800-pound gorilla in the room," Gentles reminded representatives of the Alliances for Action at the agriculture ministry, St Lucia Avenue, New Kingston, office.

Describing the event as an opportunity to speak about the great plans for the future of Jamaica's coconut industry, the CIB chairman sought to downplay the impact of the impasse between Samuda and the CIB Board of Directors.

"As you know, in every family, the presence of a little bit of money can cause challenges," he told forum participants.

 

WORKING FOR A COMMON GOOD

 

Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry, also put a positive spin on the issue over which parties remain deeply divided, declaring that the ministry had been working with the statutory body for their common good.

He said: "Unfortunately, sometimes what gets reported is the not-so-good part of that relationship, but I want to assure everybody here today that the ministry's interest in the Coconut Industry Board transcends the issue of getting a few dollars from them for development of agriculture.

"Our greater interest, frankly speaking, is to ensure that the Coconut Industry Board, as the major commodity organisation responsible for the development of coconut in Jamaica, really has a business plan that sets out a strategy to expand coconut production all over Jamaica,' said Stanberry. "Such a business plan has, in fact, been done and presented to us, preliminarily, and we are very happy at what we see, and we are hoping that we can roll it out because, in fact, the potential is there."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com