Sat | Dec 7, 2019

Farmer: JACRA like a blood-sucking tick

Published:Wednesday | June 5, 2019 | 12:15 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

Farm interests have lambasted the framework of the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulation Authority (JACRA) as a bureaucratic nightmare, labelling the oversight measures fiscally punitive and anti-competitive.

A snippet of the heavy financial penalty was presented by farmer and Banana Board Director Roger Turner, who is vehemently opposed to the various fees.

Using the example of a group that wants to sell cocoa balls, prepared in a pestle and mortar without any further processing, to Granny in Birmingham, England, Turner suggested that the process to kick-start and register the business was oppressive.

“As you are working as a group, one of you would have to be the cocoa secretary for dealing in cocoa, so you need to apply to JACRA for a licence to deal in cocoa. Then as you are going to break your pods and dry them into cocoa bricks, you apply to JACRA for a cocoa bricks licence and have your works inspected, and each visit by JACRA will cost you $25,000.

“Then, because you are exporting, you need to apply to JACRA for a cocoa exporter’s licence, and when you’ve done all of that, it will cost you $357,000 in fees to JACRA for the privilege to export cocoa balls to Granny in Birmingham. And at 15 boxes an acre of cocoa beans, you would need to supply nine and a half acres of production to JACRA just to be allowed to get the documentation to export cocoa balls to Birmingham. Isn’t that madness?” Turner queried.

The frustrated farmer has already taken issue with Audley Shaw, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, all to no avail.

“I said, Minister, why are you persecuting the small farmers so? Why are you persecuting any farmer who is struggling to survive with a bill like that to JACRA? And JACRA don’t bring anything to the table. There are no extension services. Nutten! They just sit there on Marcus Garvey Drive like a big tick sucking blood out of the dog’s back, and they doing that to the bananas, they doing that to the coffee, they gonna do that to the coconuts.”

JACRA, an amalgamation of several boards, began operations in 2018 and is focused on quality assurance and regulatory oversight for the farming sector.

LOSE FUNDING

General manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie, is convinced that banana will die a painful death if subsumed into JACRA as the entity, which receives 60 per cent of its annual funding from the Government, will lose its other sources of funding.

“Under JACRA, we can’t qualify for the things that we normally qualify for, so we are at a disadvantage and are going to be disenfranchised. We currently have project proposals that we are trying to get funding for; if we go under JACRA, we cannot submit them,” said Conie.

“We are now in the ministry and the funding agency. The EU (European Union), all of them no longer funding Government. Them moving away from Government because they say Government take this hunk of it and the taxpayers’ money is not for that, so all of them moving away from that.

“So when we spoke to them about how you going to fund us, JACRA, since JACRA gets no money from Consolidated Fund, no money from Government – they can only get from fees – so we are saying, how you going to fund us? The labs, certification, the extension service we won’t have. So what is going to happen? It’s going to collapse!”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com