Many rivers to cross in agriculture


Many rivers to cross in agriculture

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, July 13, 2020

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It was only last week that this column mentioned the importance of agriculture to Jamaica's economy and referred to Michael Lee-Chin's 3,000-acre mega farm at Innswood in St Catherine. The photo of the flourishing plants gave us high hopes for this initiative. Then came the news just a couple of days later: 80 per cent of the first crop of beautiful peppers had been stolen. Not even this modern farm is immune to this pervasive disease of praedial larceny.

Thankfully, Lee-Chin is using the incident as a teaching moment: “One of the reasons I got into agriculture is to determine where all the nodes of friction are, so we can shine a light on to and remove; that's the only way to develop this important sector,” he noted. “Praedial larceny is a big one, and there are many others — water for irrigation, land, financing, know-how, government bureaucracy, bureaucrats who are not willing to learn modern ways... I would never be able to identify, granularly, all these areas of retardation had I not gotten into the business.”

“It's important that we develop this sector to not only give us food security but also be able to develop derivative industries like agro-processing, packaging, storage, transportation, know-how, weedicide manufacturing, pesticide manufacturing, fertiliser manufacturing, etc,” the can-do entrepreneur opined. “Additionally, every developed economy has agriculture at the base of the pyramid, above that base is manufacturing and above that services; using that pyramid model you can see why our economic growth is low and erratic.”

Gideon Siterman, manager of the Innswood Farm, notes that the Ministry of Agriculture could “shorten and speed up the procedures regarding opening the market for new materials; for example, fertilisers and chemicals used in developed countries, to introduce them to the Jamaican market that will enhance productivity and will give us direct know-how and a professional base … this is needed to reach export markets”.

Siterman believes that key performance indicators should be defined, and that they should be measurable, simple, and easy to monitor: “I believe that if such an action plan is adopted, based on the necessity for a change of attitude, we could really get results very soon if we'll move quickly to make it happen. It's in our hands, we cannot miss the opportunity!”

We can cite the agricultural success stories of GraceKennedy, CB Group, Jamaica Producers, Trade Winds, Jamaica Broilers, and Rainforest. Small farmers have also benefited from relationships with these companies, even as they battle praedial larceny with limited resources.

As chairman of the Economic Growth Council, Lee-Chin has the clout to bring together private and public sector stakeholders to address the challenges faced by farmers, large and small. What a difference this will make to our economy as it struggles to get back on its feet, post-COVID-19.

COVID-19 carelessness

We are happy for those families who welcomed home their relatives, but we must appeal to them to be responsible. We hear of individuals being picked up at the airport and taken directly to restaurants, and then there was that news report of a man who had tested positive, but was asymptomatic, attending a wake and a funeral, and dodging the authorities.

With so much criminal activity in Jamaica, our security forces have enough on their hands than to be chasing these COVID-19 crazies. Our health workers are stretched and stressed. We must play our part by reporting careless behaviour and reinforcing the prevention messages in our communities and households.

As we see the mounting numbers right next door in the US, we should realise that this pandemic is far from over, and our country would have a difficult time contending with a serious outbreak. Notwithstanding, however, let us be reasonable towards those who have recovered from the illness, and let us not stigmatise communities as happened in Norwood last week. As Health Minister Christopher Tufton reminds us, “Cut the hate, don't discriminate.”

DPP's tenure extended

We are happy to hear that the tenure of Director of Public Prosecution Paula Llewellyn has been extended. She has constantly engaged the Jamaican public on the challenges faced by her hard-working team and remains always accessible to the media.

We find her straightforward manner refreshing, and we are relieved that Jamaica will continue to have the benefit of this excellent professional.

August Town ambition

The news that August Town was declared a zone of special operations (ZOSO) last week brought back memories of our visit with Miguel “Steppa” Williams on behalf of the Digicel Foundation to an area called African Gardens. There, on both banks of the Hope River, enthusiastic farmers were growing crops and rearing animals, navigating rocky paths, and looking out for each other.

We were so impressed with their level of commitment that they were selected as recipients of a 15th anniversary grant last November to assist with irrigation and farming implements. We salute Perry Palmer, Robert Simpson, Robert Campbell, Max Gibbs, Bertram Davis, Anthony Moody, and all the good people of August Town. May this ZOSO bring you well-deserved peace.

Happy 70th, Radio Jamaica

Evolving from the station ZQI set up by the Government to announce the price of goods during World War II, Radio Jamaica last week celebrated its 70th anniversary. For many Jamaicans the station was our alarm clock, our purveyor of news, and our dance partner. The phenomenal growth of Radio Jamaica, its expansion with television and cable, and later its merger with the Gleaner Company would not have been possible without the visionary leadership of the late J Lester Spaulding.

In the 80s, our PR shop collaborated with the late Milton Weller and Ralston McKenzie on several projects, including the RJR Radio Advertising Awards and the commissioning of the Galina Tower.

Happy 70th anniversary to the evergreen Radio Jamaica (back to its original name). Here's to continued success.

Farewell, Orville Holness

We extend deep sympathy to our colleague Nigel Holness and his family on the passing of their beloved father and grandfather Orville Selbourne Holness. Of his Dad, Nigel writes: “He was a real father to his many children… I am a better man and person because of the influence he had on my life, and likewise my brothers and sister, and by extension our children. Most importantly, he gave his life to Christ and so is now in heaven with His Saviour.”

Rest in peace, goodly gentleman.

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