Tue | May 23, 2017

Gov't urged to teach western youth about agri-tourism

Published:Tuesday | April 18, 2017 | 4:00 AMClaudia Gardner


 

Assignment Coordinator

Veteran hotelier and farmer Daniel Grizzle says that the Government of Jamaica must make greater efforts to show rural youth in western Jamaica how they can make a decent living from agri-tourism in order to build wealth for themselves.

According to Grizzle, who is founding father of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, agriculture and agro-processing have the potential to curb unemployment and grow rural communities in western parishes, which are plagued by unemployment and poverty.

"Show a young man what an acre of tomatoes can bring, with you planting on the same spot three crops per year, using mechanical devices. The idea about somebody farming with a machete dropping seeds is the agriculture of old," Grizzle said.

"Which young guy wants that? Every young guy wants to earn so that they can go buy a car. The price of the smallest house is $5 million or $6 million. Show him something. If a guy has five acres of tomatoes, he can earn $5 million per year. You have to demonstrate to people how you can make a good living," he added.

 

SUPPORT COCONUT INDUSTRY

 

Grizzle said that although the Coconut Industry Board is one of the better-performing state agencies in Jamaica, the Government still needs to ramp up its support to that organisation to increase coconut cultivation in the island as coconut milk is a staple in hotels.

"Every piÒa colada that is being made in this country, we can produce the coconuts, but the point is that Government has some responsibility. If a man only has 10 acres and he has to wait three, four years, it kind of puts him off, so you go to him and say, 'For every (coconut) tree you have, we are going to give you a grant of so much.' Once he starts to produce, you find a way to get back that money. So it is a long-term investment," Grizzle said.

"I always say to people: 'When you pay a man $10,000 or $12,000 per week on a farm on a Friday, by Wednesday night, he is broke ... 90 percent of what he spends his money on carries GCT, so the Government is earning. It is not like the Government is helping and getting no returns because the more people employed, the more people buy, the more taxes you collect'," Grizzle, who operates the Charela Inn in Negril, said.

 

MORE SUPPORT NEEDED

 

Grizzle says that the Rural Agricultural Development Authority ought to be streamlining the linkages between the farmers and the hotels. He said that the agency should have a minimum of five tractors with ploughs in each parish to till land for farmers, at minimal cost.

"We have to stop behaving like primitive people. Farming is a highly scientific thing; marketing is a highly scientific thing. Use them. Don't just have a computer to play games. A computer is there to help you plan and organise. Let's use it. And I always say to people, 'In Jamaica, you see the most modern cars. Go into the offices, you see the most up-to-date equipment, but go on the farm, you don't see that'," he lamented.

"What you need is Government to set up sample farms of a hundred acres and show people how it is done. No need you have educated people sitting in office in Kingston writing papers. Come out and practise and demonstrate and teach people what you have learnt," Grizzle said.

Grizzle said that among the untapped produce on which Jamaicans could capitalise is tomato paste, which could help to alleviate frequent gluts, particularly in St Elizabeth.

"Jamaican people have developed a love for pizza. One of the basic ingredients in pizza is the tomato paste. We import tomato paste from Spain and Italy. We used to grow tomatoes, and at our first restaurant, each day, we used to sell a hundred pizzas. We used to make the tomato paste ourselves. Tomato paste does not take any great skill. It is a simple procedure," he explained.

"Not only should we be supplying Jamaica with tomato paste, it is an excellent export crop for us. Food processing is something that we talk about, but which we must start doing. You can import okra from Canada. Canada has about five months to grow the okra. We have got 12 months, but we import the okra from Canada. These are some of the things our leaders are to take into consideration," Grizzle said.