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Two-year payment delay irks Young Champion Farmer

Published:Monday | June 20, 2016 | 6:00 AMChristopher Serju
In this file photo, Sheldon Williams (left), young champion farmer for 2014, and Richard Bennett, national champion farmer 2014, pose with their trophies.
Norman Grant, president of Jamaica Agricultural Society......
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Defending Young Champion Farmer Sheldon Williams is likely to be a no-show at this year's staging of the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show set for July 31 and August 1.

This is due to the failure of the organisers, the Jamaica Agriculture Society (JAS), to honour its financial obligations over the past two years.

"I'm not sure," the Westmoreland farmer told The Gleaner when asked about his participation and preparation for the 64th staging of the Caribbean's premier agricultural event. Williams, who operates a mixed-crop and pig farm in Seaford Town, won the Young Champion Farmer award in 2014 and repeated last year when he also took second place in the National Champion Farmer competition. He explained his indecision about taking part six weeks ahead of the show.

"Me nuh really want say nothing bad you know, but is like me never get nuh money two years in a row now from the people them," he said. Williams explained that he has since forgotten the value of the accumulated cash component of the award due to him.

NUMEROUS EXCUSES

He added that repeated telephone calls to the JAS head office on Church Street, downtown Kingston, were met with numerous excuses, including one that the money had been sent to the local JAS branch in his area.

"Me call and get upset with the Westmoreland side and when me look, them never give them none (money). Nothing never go like that, so is like me nuh really feel good, so me nuh sure yet," Williams said.

JAS President Norman Grant apologised for the two-year payment delay which he blamed on an "administrative glitch", since a cheque was drawn but subsequently cancelled. As soon as the matter was brought to his attention last week, Grant said he issued a directive for the situation to be corrected.

Describing this as an anomaly, he said that usually the cash prizes were paid after the show, but with a significant improvement in sponsorship over the past two years, these were given out during the show. Total cash awards are set to jump from $500,000 in 2015 to about $1.5 million this year.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com