Jamaica News: The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries has been allocated an additional $1 billion in budgetary support, to boost food security and assist small farmers for the 2020/2021 financial year.
Speaking at a virtual town hall meeting on May 14, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, said the allocation has been reflected in the First Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for 2020/2021, tabled in the House of Representatives on May 13 by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke.
“Because of the COVID-19 situation… the Minister of Finance tabled an early supplementary budget, in which we have added $1 billion to the productivity incentive scheme to assist our small farmers,” he said.
In the First Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for 2020/2021, $200 million will go to the Ministry for farmers and fishermen and an additional $800 million for productivity incentives.
Mr. Shaw informed that the Ministry has been assisting farmers who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“One of the things we did, and we are continuing to do it now, is having the farmers’ markets across the country. We purchase the produce from our small farmers at market prices and we have, in fact, been selling the produce in community markets across the country at maybe a little bit less… as a [means] of getting it into the marketplace,” he said.
Mr. Shaw said the Government has provided $240 million as part of its assistance programme to redistribute the excess produce from farmers.
He noted, also, that the Ministry has partnered with several organisations, including purveyors and distributors, as well as processors, to redistribute the supply.
“We are also working to assist farmers through the $192-million Drought Adaptation and Mitigation Programme being implemented by RADA,” he said.
Mr. Shaw also disclosed that the Ministry has arranged mobile farmers’ markets to sell the excess produce and has coordinated the distribution of produce to quarantined communities for farmers who wished to donate their excess supply.
In the meantime, Mr. Shaw said the Government will continue to implement and strengthen key food security strategies, to improve output, capacity and overall earnings within the agricultural sector.
“COVID-19 has magnified the need to place agriculture on a sustainable path. I think we can all agree that with the global projections regarding the increasing impact of climate change and impending diseases, elements such as COVID-19 may become more frequent. We, therefore, need to craft a path towards ensuring food security. It cannot be business as usual in Jamaica,” he said.
Among the strategies are the Production Incentive Programme, the Buy-Back Programme and the National Agribusiness Strategy.
The Production Incentive Programme, which is being implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), aims to increase and sustain agricultural production to meet market demand. The programme also seeks to protect the livelihood of rural farm families and positively impact national food security.
Through the Buy-Back Programme, assistance is being given to egg, pig and fresh produce farmers, while the National Agribusiness Strategy is aimed at growing Jamaica’s agricultural sector through modernisation and diversification.
Mr. Shaw said the Agri-business Strategy will focus on introducing modern-day best practices in the sector to improve the skill set of workers, reduce operational costs and revamp the whole agricultural environment for businesses to operate, and ensure “we step up the value chain with an aggressive agro-industry sector”.
“We must create a new paradigm within agriculture in Jamaica if we are to improve output, capacity and overall earnings within the sector,” he said.
Mr. Shaw emphasised that drip irrigation and the incorporation of technology are critical components to strengthening the sector.
The town hall meeting, which sought to put forward recovery strategies for the agricultural sector, was organised by The Agriculturalist newspaper, in association with the Ministry and the Jamaica Agricultural Society.
Source: JIS News