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Hutchinson: Agriculture must be engine for growth

Published:Wednesday | July 6, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, J.C. Hutchinson (second right) and the Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia, Roberto Garcia Marquez (second left), shake hands after unveiling the plaque to officially open the University of the West Indies Agricultural Research and Innovation facility in Elim, St Elizabeth, recently. Others (from left) are Director General of the Colombian Presidential Agency of International Cooperation, Alejandro Gamboa, and Deputy Principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, J. C. Hutchinson, has encouraged farmers to ramp up production, in order for the country to become a major supplier of agricultural products.

Speaking at the opening of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Agricultural Research and Innovation facility in Elim, St Elizabeth, recently, Hutchinson said the time has come for agriculture to be more than a "sample industry", players in the valued-added sector must start delivering high-quality products in large quantities.

"We have to move to big sustainable enterprises. We have in Jamaica quite a number of entities that produce a number of products, but most of these products are samples - you don't see them being exported or being sold commercially," the minister noted.

He argued that, based on its diverse capacity, agriculture must be the foundation of expected economic growth in Jamaica.

"The agricultural sector has to be the bedrock of our growth initiatives. It has the capacity to reverse our dependence on imported food and, in the process provide a better standard of living for our farmers," he said.

Welcoming the opening of the facility, Hutchinson pointed out that it forms part of his ministry's vision of building a strong agricultural sector through the development of agroindustries.

"I would like to congratulate the government of Colombia and the UWI for this wonderful plant. It is one where we all have to work together to make it successful," he said.

Hutchinson said the ministry will play a major role to ensuring farmers in St Elizabeth get back in cassava production, which will provide raw material for the UWI facility.

The facility, which produces cassava flour, is located adjacent the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy (formerly the Sydney Pagon Agricultural School).

- JIS