Mon | Sep 24, 2018

More technology needed in agriculture

Published:Monday | March 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Whenever drought hits farming communities in St Elizabeth, trucks line up to purchase water at this well in Cheapside to sell to farmers. Dr Peter Phillips, the minister of finance, says there is a need for substantial investment in irrigation.

Businessman Richard Byles said more of corporate Jamaica needs to get involved in agriculture, arguing that improving yields will depend on investing in new technologies.

Byles, who is chairman of Red Stripe, which is investing in the cultivation as cassava to use in its beer, said his company aims to utilise best practices to ensure that cassava yields are four times what the average is in Jamaica.

"Getting the yield up is vitally important for agriculture. More corporations need to get into the business of agriculture so that they can bring modern techniques to the business," Byles said.

"There is no use having farms suffer from drought and low yields. That is not the way forward. The way forward is modern farms with modern techniques; methods that protect against drought and excessive rainfall and all of those conditions. That means that corporations and the Government need to incorporate small farmers into relearning and retooling. We can't proceed in the old-fashioned way," Byles added.


economic decline


Last week, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, while explaining the importance of agriculture to the overall economy, said the severe drought experienced last year demonstrates the extent to which economic decline can result for the underperformance of the sector.

"It shows us the need for us to make a long-term investment in infrastructure for irrigation. It reveals lopsidedness in the history of agricultural investment over these many years in that the infrastructure of irrigation was focused primarily on sugar," Phillips said.

He said the area of agriculture which has become competitive is due mainly to devaluation, noting that there is hardly any investment in irrigation infrastructure.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has confirmed that there was a 0.3 per cent contraction in the economy during the October to December 2014 quarter, the second consecutive period of decline. The contraction is expected to push real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for fiscal year 2014-15 within a range of zero to one per cent, even as the PIOJ projects economic growth of 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent for the January to March 2015 quarter.