Sat | Mar 28, 2020

COVID-19 poised to derail JAS plans

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2020 | 12:12 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer
Fulton
Fulton

WESTERN BUREAU:

WITH COVID-19 creating an uncertain future as it relates to imports of foods from overseas suppliers, the news out of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) is painting an even darker cloud as the virus begins to take a toll locally.

According to Lenworth Fulton, president of the JAS, the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a significant financial blow to the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) as some revenue streams have been disrupted, creating a gap as it relates to projected earnings.

“The organisation has had to cancel four shows so far. These shows contribute significantly, financially, to the kind of service we offer to farmers,” Fulton told The Gleaner in an interview earlier this week. “We are not very optimistic that the largest agricultural show in the Caribbean, the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show, will be staged as planned in August.”

According to Fulton, the likelihood of the non-staging of the Denbigh Agricultural Show is particularly concerning as it represents the biggest opportunity for stakeholders in the sector to create linkages and establish business opportunities.

ADDING MORE DAMAGE

“The loss from the non-staging will add further damage to our operations. It is the show where farmers make their biggest sale, get input from technical people. It is also an avenue for chemicals and fertilisers to be displayed,” said Fulton. “Companies involved in all aspects of agriculture meet farmers and market their goods and service. These opportunities will be lost.”

The blow to the sector will be even more challenging, as it is coming in the wake of a recent decision to cut the JAS’s annual J$80-million subsidy, which the organisation was already describing as a threat to its capacity to properly service to the local agricultural sector.

“The Government had indicated that this (the subsidy) would come to an end,” said Fulton. “This means the organisation will be in dire straits if we don’t get that subsidy and earn nothing from the staging of shows.”

Faced with what is an uncertain future, Fulton said the JAS will be seeking dialogue with the Government with a view of looking at the current situation as it concerns getting their house in order going forward.

“With COVID-19 present with us, I will have to sit down with the Government to chart the way forward,” said Fulton.