Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Better farm roads on returning agriculture minister’s agenda

Published:Monday | May 29, 2023 | 12:53 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer

One of the many aspects of the agricultural industry that Floyd Green, the recently returned minister of agriculture, fisheries and mining, wants to focus on is the rehabilitation of farm roads across St Andrew.

Highlighting the constituencies of St Andrew Eastern, Western, East Rural and West Rural, Green, who delivered the keynote address at the 27th staging of the Kingston and St Andrew Association (KSA) of Branch Societies/Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Agro Fest on Saturday, noted that farmers in these areas continue to face a number of difficulties and that better farm roads were a top priority.

Local farmers have found it challenging to get their produce to markets because of the current road conditions leading up to their fields, but Green sought to reassure them that he has heard their complaints and that he would be placing special emphasis on the farm road programme this year while quickening the pace at which it would be carried out.

He also expressed an interest in ramping up the nation’s spice production and exportation, especially for turmeric, so that farmers might benefit from the lucrative industry.

Green indicated that an announcement regarding the ministry’s intention to carry out a five-year strategic plan to treat with expansion of spice production would be made in the coming weeks.

“So, over the next few months, weeks, years, you will see again a renewed focus on food security, agri-business development, climate-smart technologies, and, of course, exports,” he said, adding that the ministry would be one of growth and a “paradigm of prosperity”; Green received his new portfolio assignment when Prime Minister Andrew Holness made changes to the Cabinet last Tuesday.

Green had previously served as a minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, a position to which he was appointed in January 2022, after a brief time-out of the Cabinet. In September 2021, he had been forced to resign as agriculture minister after being caught on camera at a hotel party, in breach of COVID-19 no-movement day restrictions. Now back in the ministry, he succeeds Pearnel Charles Jr while also taking on the mining portfolio previously held by Audley Shaw.

During his presentation on Saturday, Green further outlined an interest in tackling the continuous issue of praedial larceny as “we have to ensure that we take immediate steps to try and cauterise this [issue] ... .”

Green added that praedial larceny served as a major deterrent to youths entering the livestock sector as they are uninterested due to the fear of losing livestock to theft.

More stringent penalties

He further stated that he has already met with his team to receive information about where the ministry is at with regard to changing praedial larceny laws to ensure that more stringent penalties could be put in place to deal with offenders.

He said he would be meeting with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to ensure further develop of strategies and to get more officers on the ground in dealing with the issue.

Other areas that he aims to focus on include directing individuals to the “tremendous” opportunities made available through the livestock sector.

He stated that the demand was great and that he would be engaging young entrepreneurs in areas, such as goat and goat-meat pr0duction.

Green said he would also be engaging with coffee farmers within the next three weeks to see what more can be done to enhance the coffee production industry making it better able to supply international markets.

During his remarks, Ian Forbes, custos rotulorum for St Andrew, praised the farmers within KSA and their contribution to Jamaica’s agriculture sector.

“Each demonstration here not just signifies the harvest of plants, but the harvest of dreams, patience and tenacity. You have shown us the power of nurturing the earth with respect, care and a forward-thinking mindset,” he said.

Continuing, Forbes said farmers served as proof that Jamaica’s future was bright.

“But let us remember, we are the future of our Earth, and this responsibility is also our privilege,” he said.

There are more than 10,000 registered farmers in the KSA region and 3,500 registered coffee farmers.

The event, which was held on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining playfield in St Andrew, featured more than 20 exhibitors.