Agriculture can't be welfare anymore
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Given alL the reports that have been published over the last few weeks concerning the sugar industry and what appears to be its inevitable demise, I think it is time that alternative and more productive uses of the lands be reviewed before we waste any more of taxpayers' money in performing futile life-support operations on sugar.
I really believe that the sugar lands could be converted to super-farms that would produce our domestic requirements in fruits, vegetables and livestock and cultivated on the scale and technology-based systems as the countries from which we now import.
The majority of the sugar lands are flat. Therefore, mechanisation of agricultural processes is optimal. We must have easy access to irrigation water and a transport infrastructure that facilitates modern, high-intensity agriculture for local production and export.
Our livestock industry could be expanded on lands less suitable for mechanisation and should include cattle, goats and sheep, making us as protein independent as possible. We should also help to develop the export of goat meat to the other Caribbean islands and the diaspora.
Modernised, high-intensity agriculture can provide the same, if not more, job security than the failing sugar industry AND contribute significantly to our nutritional independence. It would also spur the growth of an agro-processing industry, allowing us to benefit from valued-added production and further employment.
It is time to move our agriculture from being an unofficial welfare system to a modern industry that can help create economic growth, quality employment and social stability.
It is time to make our agricultural lands work for us and not us for them.
MARK N. KERR-JARRETT