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Senate suspends debate on Agricultural Loan Societies Act

Published:Monday | September 25, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue

The Senate on Friday suspended debate on the Agricultural Loans Societies and Approved Organisations Act for a date to be announced, as lawmakers believe more time was needed for closer examination of the bill piloted by Senator Pearnel Charles Jnr.

The bill, which seeks to modernise the agricultural sector to meet the demands of increased food security and agricultural productivity, began in the House of Representatives on April 12 and was piloted by Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Passage of the bill would dissolve the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) and transfer the board's monitoring and regulatory functions to the Registrar of Co-operative and Friendly Societies, which is reflected in the bill.

During Friday's sitting of the Senate, the hawk-eyed Leader of Opposition Business Senator Mark Golding raised several concerns over sections of the bill, including some clauses which he deemed to be in need of greater clarity.

The bill, which came to the Senate with numerous amendments, found support from government senators Don Wehby and Kerensia Morrison.


Supporting the bill


Wehby said he was in support of the bill's Memorandum of Objects and Reasons which, would modernise the agriculture sector to meet the demands of food security and agricultural productivity.

Wehby, who is chief executive officer of local food manufacturing conglomerate GraceKennedy Limited, said that with the dissolution of the ACB and the transfer of functions to the Department of Co-operative and Friendly Societies, it must be provided with the resources it needs to perform the additional functions.

He said a "framework of corporate governance in line with international standards is essential for the continued improvement of the direction and control of the entities covered by this legislation, which the regulator will be responsible for monitoring".

Wehby said the ability to improve access to credit for members will be instrumental to the growth of the agricultural sector.

Supporting the push for farmers 'insurance, he said if the Government buys insurance for farmers and put in place a reimbursement mechanism, funds would be mobilised quickly in the aftermath of a weather event.

Morrison said it was a myth to believe that women did not make up a large part of the farming community, and farmers' insurance was critical to the survival of the sector.

The bill also provides for the establishment of the Agricultural Appeal Tribunal and for the registration and regulation of the agricultural loan societies by or under the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, and the certification of approved organisations by the minister. The Department will be keeping and maintaining a register containing details of the agricultural loan society, while at the same time amending, correcting or adding details to the register.