Jamaica News: Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, has lauded the 123-year-old Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) for its contribution to advancing the country’s agricultural industry.
He noted that the entity has been playing its part in increasing food security, expanding exports and modernising agricultural practices in Jamaica.
“The JAS has created space for innovation and value-added product development and encouraged broad acceptance of the need for responsible environmental protection,” he said.
The Governor-General was delivering the main address on day two of the 66th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in May Pen, Clarendon, on Sunday (August 5).
He noted that the JAS had given voice to its members – from small farmers to large landowners, young student members to experienced producers – and embraced opportunities to promote the linkages that enhance productivity and profit.
“The multiplier effect of your work has positively impacted the fabric of our nation, and I hope that you continue to advance the agenda of ‘Grow What We eat, Eat What We Grow,’” he said.
The Governor-General, who is patron for Denbigh, saluted outgoing JAS President, Norman Grant, for providing effective leadership.
He said that the future of agriculture is in the hands of the nation’s creative young people, such as 15-year-old livestock farmer from Clarendon, Matthew Thomas, whose 1,740-lb Jamaican Brahman bull was judged champion in the bull/other beef breeds category at Denbigh, and the students from the Ebony Park HEART Academy.
Mr. Grant, in his address, said that the value of the Denbigh product has grown from approximately $7 million in 2003 to $75 million today, generating economic activity worth $1 billion.
He noted that the JAS’s ‘Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow’ campaign has been game-changing, saving the economy some US$500 million over its 14-year history.
“Domestic crop production has moved from 491,000 metric tons in 2003 to 668,000 metric tons in 2016. We have become self-sufficient in table eggs, poultry and pork,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Grant said that the JAS is positioning farmers to capitalise on the opportunities that exist in the mutton industry.
He informed that Jamaica now imports some $800 million worth of mutton and lamb annually because the sector can only satisfy 25 per cent of local demand. He said that Jamaica needs to increase goat and sheep production significantly from 750,000 to four million heads in order to make the island self-sufficient.
Mr. Grant further pointed to the need to address praedial larceny, which costs the sector some $6 billion annually; increase access to low-interest credit for farmers; funding to improve farm roads; and to put more idle lands in the hands of farmers.
Agriculture contributes more than seven and a half per cent to gross domestic product (GDP), providing jobs for 20 per cent of the labour force.
Source: JIS News