Fri | Jun 18, 2021

Green blasts lenders for starving farmers of capital

Published:Friday | May 14, 2021 | 12:10 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Reporter

Lenders have been criticised by Agriculture Minister Floyd Green for not providing affordable financing to farmers and fishers.

Despite having talks with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica last year, Green said he has not seen any tangible effort from lenders to offer low-cost loans for agriculture.

“Our financial services have not recognised the importance of agriculture and the need to provide low-cost agriculture,” he bluntly told journalists at a press conference on Thursday, less than 24 hours after making his Sectoral Debate presentation in Parliament.

Green said that he had met with officials of the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and explored the earmarking of funds from the Credit Enhancement Facility for agriculture-based loans. He is also optimistic that farmers would also be able to tap more funding from credit unions.

The agriculture minister lamented that many farmers and fishers were not able to access DBJ loans from financial institutions.

“The reality is that our financial services really need to step up to the plate and provide low-cost capital so that our entrepreneurs in farming and fishing can expand, and also those who are into agro-processing.

“They have been explaining that it is much too difficult for them to get the financing to expand their businesses,” Green said.

Meanwhile, the Government has earmarked another $150 million to continue the rehabilitation of the Bodles Research Station, which has become ramshackle – a far cry from the status of scientific eminence it enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s.

The funds will be spent completing the high-tech dairy plant and to construct a new piggery. Over the past two years, $635 million was invested in refurbishing the genetic preservation centre, installation of irrigation, and the maintenance of nurseries.

Public gardens are also to get some attention, with the Bath Botanic Gardens in St Thomas to be rehabilitated and Castleton Gardens in St Mary to benefit from a European Union programme,

The agriculture ministry will also partner with the Tourism Enhancement Fund to improve the Holland Bamboo attraction in St Elizabeth.

Green disclosed that the Public Infrastructure Management Committee of the Ministry of Finance has approved the disbursement of $5.4 billion over the next 10 years to get all the country’s research stations – Bodles in St Catherine, Orange River in St Mary, and Montpelier in St James – up to First-World standards.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com