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Agriculture lacks serious Gov’t attention, says Rickards

Published:Monday | September 16, 2019 | 12:15 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer

Immediate past chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA), Allan Rickards, says successive governments have failed Jamaica by placing the agriculture sector in the shadows.

Speaking to The Gleaner days before being replaced by Ambassador Derick Heaven, who was elected as the new head of the farmers group last Wednesday, Rickards, who held the position since 2004, says the agriculture sector must be a priority for any government if Jamaica is to prosper.

“My belief is that agriculture is essential to this country, but the sector has not been treated seriously by successive governments and agriculture ministers have not had an easy time at Cabinet,” Rickards told The Gleaner.

“I can tell you for a fact that ministers of agriculture go to Cabinet and have a hard time being heard. Other industries are deemed more important, so agriculture never gets the attention that it deserves.”

According to Rickards, agriculture cannot be a political issue if it is to be sustainable, as it concerns the lives of ordinary Jamaicans.

“Every agriculture minister is my minister. The constituency is agriculture and the Government is whoever sits in the seat as minister, and I continue to tell those appointed to serve in the office, let us talk as one people, my minister is my minister.”

According to the outspoken Rickards, he is leaving the AIJCFA in a healthy financial position, a far cry from the days when the group had to depend on a portion of the cess paid to its membership to pay salaries, but expresses disappointment that none of the factories currently in operation is owned by the farmers’ group.

He is proud of the fact that under his watch, term limits have been introduced for officers of the national board of the AIJCFA, but is hoping that the younger generation would see the importance of the sector and offer themselves to serve.

Rickards remains a board member of the Sugar Industry Authority and the Jamaica Cane Products Sales, which is in the process of winding down its operations.