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Sectoral Debate: Agriculture deserves full-time minister, says Hutchinson

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2015 | 12:30 AM

PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller is being urged to appoint a new minister of agriculture, a portfolio which is now overseen by Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier.

"We need a full-time minister. This minister is pinch-hitting. I don't think he knows what is happening in the ministry," J.C. Hutchinson, the opposition spokesman on agriculture, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

Hutchinson, who served as junior minister in the agriculture ministry between 2007 and 2011, said Kellier is out of his league and has been misleading the country on a number of important matters relating to the sector.

Kellier was given the agriculture portfolio after the untimely death of then minister Roger Clarke last year. He has been given a junior minister in Luther Buchanan, who has responsibility for the fisheries sector.


Doesn't have enough time


Contributing to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Hutchinson said Kellier merely turns up at the agriculture ministry in the evenings and does not have enough time to even sign documents let alone give; proper leadership to the sector. He said Kellier is now called "the fly-by-night pinch-hitter".

"You have a minister who is pinch-hitting in the ministry. The Ministry of Agriculture is being watered down by having a part-time minister. Before even stepping up to the plate during the drought, he pronounced that there was no shortage of agriculture produce," Hutchinson said.

He then proceeded on a lecture, using the spike of prices to explain that when it comes to agricultural produce, this is an indication of shortage. Hutchinson also lashed Kellier for claiming paternity to the agro-park concept, labelling him as "mendacious". The opposition spokesman said the third strike against Kellier is for claiming that agriculture grew by 13 per cent in 2013, even though the Economic and Social Survey said there was a 0.6 per cent decline.

"As a pinch-hitter, he needs to walk back to his dugout, which is the Ministry of Labour and Social Security," Hutchinson said.

In cricket, pinch-hitter is the usual term for a batsman promoted up the batting order in order to score quick runs. Pinch-hitters are known for their big hitting and high strike rates, however, they sometimes lack the technique of higher-class batsmen and therefore often get out for low scores through their excessive attacking.