UK high commish wants local private sector to plough deeper into agriculture
United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad has called out the local private sector to provide more support to farmers in an effort to further accelerate economic growth in the country.
Ahmad comments came even as he warned that for the agriculture sector to grow, all stakeholders must play a part in its development, starting with the Government.
But Ahmad, who was speaking during the launch of a UK-funded irrigation project in Essex Valley, St Elizabeth, on Wednesday, believes the private sector can pull greater weight in improving the returns on agriculture.
To that end, he disclosed that he has met with some of the private sector interests in the country and encouraged them to change their behaviour towards the sector.
"They need to support farmers through their peaks and troughs; pay on time, not keep them waiting; they should be careful who they buy from - not from the back of a cab, not from a pickup truck or from an unknown supplier - so that they can trace where the goods came from to make sure they are not stolen," he said.
The UK's top diplomat in the island also called for the private sector to improve their logistics operation, which, he argued, has been a drag on the development of the agriculture sector.
"I reach out to the shipping industry to reform the way they practise shipping rates. They punish good exporters at the cost of their own country," Ahmad contended.
But even with the challenges gripping the sector locally, the high commissioner pledged that Britain as an importer, whether in or out of the European Union, will be at the front of free trade with Jamaica as a partner.
"We won't change the rules without rules about safe food, but we will do everything within our power to ensure that Jamaican producers continue to enjoy preferences when they export to us," Ahmad said in the presence of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other government officials.
Jamaica has benefited from approximately £100 million, the high commissioner has said, touting that the UK might well be the country's largest international partner.