Robust agriculture sector critical in building back economy – Green
From state minister for the former Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries where he served in the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration, Floyd Green has been promoted to take charge of the newly formed Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
When The Gleaner spoke with Green, who is also an attorney-at-law, on Sunday, it was clear that he already was planning to bring his A-game to the table ahead of Monday’s first Cabinet meeting.
Against the background of the significant economic fallout due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, agriculture and fisheries will need a reset in order for it to fulfil its pivotal role in building back the economy much stronger than before, the new minister disclosed. The cutbacks on food imports especially have brought the issue of food nutrition and security again into sharp focus.
“I think the country recognises that agriculture and fisheries has probably one of the most critical roles to play in the building back of the Jamaican economy. It is important that we have a strong, robust agriculture and fisheries sector; that farmers are given sufficient due and prominence, and also our fishers, and also that the proper systems are put in place to facilitate the growth, diversification and strengthening of the industry.
“I think that in a nutshell is what the prime minister wants me to focus on in terms of growing the industry, in diversifying the sectors, bringing in young, fresh blood and ensuring that there is innovation and technology across the sector, but most importantly, using agriculture and fisheries as the pillar of economic growth in moving forward. I think that is our broad mandate.”
Critical to the success of that mandate will be the translation of the research and innovation done at tertiary-level institutions such as The University of the West Indies, University of the Technology, and Northern Caribbean University into practical applications for the agriculture and fisheries sector. It will also mean a broadening of the focus on strengthening the capacity of the research stations across the island, beginning with the Bodles Research Station in St Catherine.
“We want to bring Jamaica back to where it was when we were leaders in agricultural research and developing in the Caribbean, so absolutely that will be one of our priority areas of focus. So you will see a closer link between the work that we do at Bodles and the work done at the Scientific Research Council, as well as our educational institutions.
“I was able to come across excellent research work that had been done in relation to planting material innovation, machinery for the agriculture sector, but what I have not seen is the transition between those research papers, those technology developments into the sector itself. So we are going to work on bringing that research into the agriculture sector by working more closely with those educational institutions.”
The College of Agriculture, Science and Education, the county’s only tertiary-level education institution fully engaged in agriculture, will lead the charge in this area, with Green declaring that, “It has to be at the forefront of agricultural research.”
The education ministry will also have to take on a greater role in helping to reshape and refocus the thinking of Jamaicans to realise that agriculture is not a hobby, Green disclosed.
“We definitely are going to be working with the education ministry to ensure that we have a robust, strong agricultural science programme across all our institutions, ensuring that agriculture is given the required prominence from the early childhood and primary level because we want a complete reshaping, refocusing of the minds of how people view agriculture.
“It is not a hobby. It is how we are going to move Jamaica forward!”