Floyd's new face of agriculture
Would that he achieves three-quarters of his plansThursday, June 10, 2021
What a busy couple of weeks we have had here on the world's best and favourite island nation. There has been much fodder for everyone. News junkies, sports enthusiasts, and those interested in nation-building have had their fill. Nonetheless, the country cannot pause in any moment. Not at all.
The business of nation-building never stops and the Ministry of Agriculture, I hope, is taking note. Why? The presentation in Parliament by Minister Floyd Green a few weeks ago is as audacious as it is robust. If in the 12 months until the next budget presentation the minister and his team can achieve even three-quarters of what is slated to happen, Jamaica's agricultural sector will have leapfrogged into a path for growth and development unlike anything in our country's modern history. The path will not just be success for the current crop of farmers, but also for new players who will enter the agricultural marketplace and for the country as a whole.
Sitting on the side as a 'potential farmer', I am excited by the prospects. It is as though the ministry has taken on a new form with a breath of fresh air. Cool breeze must be blowing through its corridors and fanning a flame of change. How else does one explain the desire to achieve some of the goals laid out by the minister when he spoke of “The New Face of Food: Food Security, Agribusiness Development, Climate Smart Technologies and Export Expansion”. Some of what he had to say includes but is not limited to:
1) research taking a primary place in the agricultural sector moving forward;
2) seed improvement which includes plans such as establishing a certified out-grower scheme for commercial seed production;
3) establishing a US$1.05-million Agri-business Cold Chain project;
4) implementing a soil fertility mapping project which will significantly aid in soil health;
5) greater access to a wider range of tools for farming; and
6) modernisation of the sugar sector.
There is an abundance of even more ideas and plans than what I have listed, but what is most impressive is not the number of intended actions but the level of thought and obvious research that went into developing these audacious ideas.
I hope they will leave the paper printed on and become a reality in short order. What a joy it will be when, standing in the Parliament in 2022, the minister spends at least three-quarters of his presentation focusing on highlighting what has been achieved from the 2021 list.
Every industry needs a continuity plan, whether formal or otherwise, this is how industries grow and develop into bigger and better or simply stall. Agriculture has stalled for a long time in its ability to attract young people. Without new younger players entering the agricultural field it will not soar. What will happen instead is that the sector will limp into the future. With that would come greater food insecurity and higher food prices as the reliance on exports would climb.
How, though, do we attract young people of this generation and the previous to get involved in an industry being practised in the same manner as it had when Alexander Bustamante was leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and his cousin Norman Manley at the helm of the People's National Party (PNP)? It would never happen; our young people want to be part of that which is forward-thinking and innovative. Agricultural science and farming can be both, and if the plans laid out are implemented I can see young people wanting to participate at different levels.
The image we often have in our minds of an older man in a straw hat with a machete in hand is that of farming of the past. Today we have hydroponics, aquaponics and herding done in small spaces. We also have modern equipment which lessens the use of the machete.
No pressure, Minister Floyd Green and the team at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but Jamaica is waiting with bated breath for the new face of agriculture to shine bright and turn around an industry on which we all rely. See you around this time next year for that audit of the plans laid out.
Natalie Campbell-Rodriques is a senator and development consultant with a focus on political inclusion, governance, gender, and Diaspora affairs. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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