Jamaica Gleaner / Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips says the lack of innovation in the agriculture sector could spell doom for the industry if the right policy mix is not employed.
“We need to face the fact that if we don’t devise the means of being innovative and productive and finding the right policy mix, then as they say, dog gwine nyam wi supper, collectively,” Phillips said.
He was addressing Tuesday’s Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President’s Forum, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Phillips pointed out that the inadequacies of the sector must not be borne solely by the Government but that partnership with small and big businesses should be used to re-engineer a new approach to farming that can both satisfy the local and export markets.
“We need to extend the irrigation infrastructure into those sectors producing for the domestic market. Many of our farmers are without adequate information and are using obsolete techniques. We will have to build our extension services to provide the necessary support,” urged Phillips.
He said that a comparison and contrast of other jurisdictions showed that the levels of advice about markets, products and the agronomic arrangements were way ahead and revealed what was needed in Jamaica.
Access to land is still a major issue, according to Phillips. He said that while the Government owned vast swathes of good land that could be used in agricultural production, the process of land acquisition was a tedious and time consuming undertaking at best.
“Government continues to be a main owner of large tracks of arable land but without naming any particular companies, it is often very difficult, time consuming and involves a lot of delays for people who want to engage in large scale production to get access to land to do it,” Phillips noted.
… Ja importing sorrel concentrate He said many Jamaicans have given up on owning land for farming and have moved to other countries, including the Dominican Republic, to get on with their production, which they then bring back to the domestic market.
“You know an amazing thing; when you go into Central America they call sorrel Jugo Jamaicano (Jamaican Juice) and we are importing this Jamaican juice from them in concentrate form,” said Phillips.
“We can (import) but one thing should be clear to us now; nobody owes us anything. No other country. There is no peace dividend flowing from the Cold War; there is nobody with a big bag wanting to give development assistance. In fact, what we improperly call development assistance is really a loan, in the main,” he said.