Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Shaw promises fairness in $60m coffee share-out

Published:Tuesday | September 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer
Michael Lee Chin (left) seems to be providing details of the $60 million bailout for small farmers who cultivate Blue Mountain Coffee, much to the delight of Juliet Holness, Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Rural, during a press briefing at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries’ St Lucia New Kingston office.

MINISTER OF Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw has given the assurance that the $60 million donated by the Lee-Chin family will be distributed to registered small coffee farmers in a non-partisan and equitable way, based on their needs.

Shaw told yesterday's press briefing at his St Lucia Avenue, New Kingston, office: "We are going to ensure that this $60 million is expended in the fairest, empirically research-based, most transparent way where we target those who are most needy. Not just as a giveaway, but as an opportunity to begin that turnaround in the productive capacity of this industry."

This is keeping with the desire of Lee-Chin, who put into perspective the rationale for this philanthropic act.

"Remember, it's a gift, a one- time gift of $60 million. This gift is not coming from Mavis Bank, Mavis Bank can't afford it. This gift is not coming from Wallenford; Wallenford cannot afford it - it's a personal gift from the Lee-Chin family to the neediest of the 7,000 farmers and their families."

The gift is as a result of a request from Juliet Holness, member of parliament for

St Andrew East Rural, a major segment of the Blue Mountain coffee belt, and the money has already been wired to the account of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which is the implementing entity.

Meanwhile, Daryl Vaz, member of parliament for Portland West, in welcoming the much-needed assistance for his constituents, appealed to Shaw and RADA to expedite the process.

"Let us cut out the bureaucracy in the distribution of this help. It is private-sector funds, and what we must do is make sure it is dealt with transparently, efficiently and non-partisan. That is what Mr Lee-Chin wants - coffee farmers, whether they are Christians or not, whatever religion, race, colour or creed or political affiliation, they need this help."

This is the second multimillion-dollar coffee assistance deal brokered by the government in less than a year. It follows the $80-million Productivity Incentive Programme launch by former agriculture Minister Karl Samuda in October last year. Inputs such as fertilisers, fungicides and tools were given to farmers in a bid to boost production levels from 20 boxes per acre to 80 boxes per acre.