Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Shaw ready to energise agricultural sector

Published:Wednesday | April 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMOkoye Henry/Gleaner Writer
Audley Shaw, the minister of industry, investment, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, checking out the exhibitions inside the Roger Clarke Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Western Bureau:

Contrary to what others have been saying about his reassignment, Government minister Audley Shaw says the decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to move him from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to the Ministry of Industry, Investment, Commerce and Agriculture was more of a promotion than a demotion.

Shaw, who was speaking at the 2018 Montpelier Agricultural and Industrial Show in St James on Monday, actually labelled those persons who were treating his switch from finance to agriculture as a drop down the ladder as "troublemakers".

"Having piloted the Govern-ment's ship to achieve macro-economic stability through fiscal consolidation and with all the macroeconomic variables pointing in one direction, I now lead the charge for economic growth, which is the greatest imperative for this Government," said Shaw, in explaining his move to the agriculture ministry.

"Goods are coming down, unemployment coming down, interest rate coming down," said Shaw. " ... And so, I accept this new charge from the prime minister, and we look forward to working with you, and seek your cooperation, as we seek to make a better life for our farmers across Jamaica."

 

... 'Too much idle lands'

 

In outlining his plans going forward, Audley Shaw, the minister of industry, investment, commerce and agriculture, says he intends to address a number of structural issues such as the vast acres of idle government lands that could be used for agricultural production.

"When last have you travelled across Jamaica or flown across the country and behold the idle lands that are within our country?" asked Shaw. "There are far too much idle lands in Jamaica and some of these lands already have irrigation systems that are lying idle as well. On top of that, we also have far too many idle hands. We can do better than that and we have to find ways to inspire our young people that there is a future in agriculture."

Shaw went on to explain that he has already commissioned his ministry to work with the Agro Investment Corporation, the National Irrigation Commission, SCJ Holdings and Jampro to do an inventory of all available government lands as well as to profile these lands based on their soil capabilities and availability of irrigation.

The agriculture minister said the agencies have also been tasked to identify high-value crops that can be grown on these lands and will ultimately package these lands for investment through leasing to the 220,000 small farmers in the country.

 

NEED TO CUT IMPORT BILL

 

"We are too resource-rich to be poor. Our high food import bill, while a challenge, is also

an opportunity for import substitution," noted Shaw. "Can you imagine, we flying down the tourists them in record numbers and most of the food to feed them are flying down on the plane too? Only five per cent of what we produce in agriculture we sell to the tourists that come here to eat. Unacceptable! It can't work and will not continue under my watch."

During the day's activities, Shaw participated in the official opening of the Roger Clarke Exhibition and Conference Centre, which is the latest addition to the Montpelier Showground. The day's activities also featured the champion farmers' competition, farm queen competition, horseback riding, farmers' market, and a stage show.