Sat | Oct 23, 2021

JACRA goes under the microscope

Published:Monday | July 15, 2019 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green.

A comprehensive review of the legislative framework and operational status of the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) is to be undertaken by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries to determine their appropriateness. The review comes in light of ongoing criticisms of the authority since its creation.

State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green on Wednesday disclosed that the review was necessary because of the advocacy of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), whose 124th annual general meeting he addressed on Wednesday.

“The ministry, through the office of the Permanent Secretary, has started a review of JACRA. Clearly, we are doing everything from legislation to the operations. I think everybody saw the overarching vision and has bought into it, but the operationalisation is what is critical, and we have taken feedback from all stakeholders. As such, the PS [Permanet Secretary] has assembled a team to meet with JACRA and next week I will meet with JACRA, to go through some of the concerns,” Green told The Gleaner.

With the declining fortunes of traditional crops such as coffee, coconut, bananas, and sugar in recent years, the decision was taken to remove individual commodity boards and bring some of the crops under the umbrella of one regulatory agency. However, the agency has been plagued with problems from the start and is still without a leader.

Group Chairman of the Seprod Group of Companies Richard Pandohie quit as the first chairman last May ,and almost a week later, Everton Hansen was booted as director-general. Gusland McCook was appointed to act in the post.

Pandohie applauded the concept of having a single agriculture board with the mandate to drive the growth of the industry after years of decline. However, he charged that JACRA, in its current form, is flawed.

“It is far from being operational, and in fact, if left in its current form, that would be a deterrent to the farmers and the farming community. The idea of separating the commercial functions from the regulatory has merit, but JACRA is going to need to take on a lot more than that,” Pandohie said upon quitting. “The concept is sound, but it needs a lot of work to get it operational,” he said.

In January 2019, he was replaced by Dennis Boothe, a former banker and chairman of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company.

JACRA is financed from fees charged to farmers. Several view the fees as exorbitant, and it is that the fees have slowed down the activities of some farmers, as well as exporters.

 

- Pimento: imported raw material, US$0.40/kg; 4 per cent of shipment value for exports.

- Ginger: imported finished goods, US$0.56/kg; 4 per cent of shipment value for exports.

- Turmeric: imported raw material, US$0.20/kg; 4 per cent of shipment value for exports.

- Coconut: imported finished goods and raw material, US$0.35/kg.

- Cocoa: imported finished goods, US$0.22/kg; 2 per cent of shipment value for exports; industry cess of J$55 per box.

- Coffee: imported finished goods, US$2.40/kg; imported raw material, US$1.41/kg; US$0.18/kg, US$0.36/kg, and US$0.52/kg for exports of various product categories; industry cess of J$53, J$91, and US$0.18 per box on various product categories.

- Payment of the cess by a grower, processor, manufacturer, importer, or exporter is due 10 days after the sale of the product. The charge doubles if the entity fails to adhere to the payment schedule. They must also file annual sales records with JACRA, breach of which a breach incurs a fine of $3 million.