Opposition Senator Dr Christopher Tufton has declared that while Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke should be recognised for his track record as a farmer, he must be criticised and penalised for his stewardship in the ministry.
Tufton, himself a former agriculture minister, said yesterday that since taking office, Clarke "has not articulated a clear progressive vision for the sector and even worse, he has failed to follow through on the vision and programmes left by the former government".
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Pineapple Growers' Association in Ginger Hill, St Elizabeth, Tufton said: "(Clarke's) tenure so far has done little to serve the interests of the farmers of Jamaica and the national goal to reduce food imports and to boost exports."
The former minister accused Clarke of abandoning a number of critical programmes because they were started by the former administration and, in the case where programmes were kept, the progress of implementation has slowed and in many cases stopped altogether.
According to Tufton, despite Clarke's affable demeanour, he is too political for the good of the sector.
"It appears that the first thing the minister did when he took the ministry was to embark on a witch hunt to get rid of or isolate people who he felt or was told were not politically supportive. In many cases, these were just perceptions and he ended up sidelining good talent who understood the vision for the ministry and the sector, causing delays in programme implementation and in some cases an outright abandonment of critical reforms."
Further, according to Tufton, Clarke seemed more interested in finding a scandal around every corner, crying wolf where none were present, and in the process disrupting the smooth transition and continuity of things that were working for the sector.
Tufton posed several questions which he said Clarke has an obligation to answer in the interest of the Jamaican farmers and consumers.
Tufton's questions to Roger Clarke
What has happened to the commodity board review intended on restructuring these traditional organisations for greater efficiency and value-added production through more private-sector leadership and investment?
What has happen to the rice project which was intended to reduce the country's dependence on approximately 100,000 tons of imports annually?
What has happened to the farmers' markets designed to address gluts, the production and productivity programme to improve productivity, the Irish potato and onion import substitution projects, the agricultural land use and risk management programmes that were all a work in progress before the change of government?