Speaking at the Agricultural Information Forum hosted by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew on Tuesday (March 13), Mr. Cole said for years, Jamaicans have identified agriculture as being among the lower-class jobs and not the worthwhile investment that it can be.
“Agriculture can no longer be seen as a vocation for those with limited education and shallow pockets. It is a discipline that requires a scientific approach as well as a serious business mindset if one expects to make a meaningful return on investment,” Mr. Cole emphasised.
He said Jamaica’s economy benefits significantly from agriculture on an annual basis, and if more persons took agriculture as a serious business investment, then there would be a boom in the sector and the economy.
“Before the devastating rains of 2017, Jamaica’s agricultural sector, forestry and fisheries grew by 13.5 per cent. We can go back to those places, because we have the basic makings of getting back to those numbers, but we need all hands on deck; not just Government and the 220,000 small farmers but the private sector,” Mr. Cole said.
“When there’s growth in agriculture, the economy benefits directly. When things are down and agriculture is up, the economy is up also. The year, when it grew by 13.5 per cent the economy grew also. It is showing us how important agriculture is to the growth of the economy,” he added.
Mr. Cole said agriculture-based jobs should not be seen as low-level jobs, because this sector helps to build other sectors, such as manufacturing.
“Manufacturing is a big part of what agriculture feeds into, because we have provided the throughput that the value-adders and the processors need to fill their market demands. This vision [of changing the culture of identifying agriculture as a vocation, to a primary source of income for the growth of our society] is closely aligned to Jamaica’s Vision 2030, which sees Jamaica being the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business,” he said.
For her part, President of JAMPRO, Diane Edwards, supported Mr. Cole, arguing that his stance is one reason her organisation decided to host the forum and to promote investment projects in agriculture and generate interest among local investors.
“This is really critical to the country’s future. Agriculture accounts for seven per cent of GDP in Jamaica, so a lot of times the GDP in Jamaica sinks or swims relating to the movement of agriculture,” Ms. Edwards said.
“When you take into account value-added products, including agro processed goods, the contribution of the sector rises to 12 per cent of GDP. When agriculture grows, GDP grows, and this is something that we saw happen about three quarters ago when agriculture grew 28 per cent. So we know that agriculture can grow, and we believe the time for agriculture has arrived,” she said.
The event also focused on the Government’s commitment to supporting the growth of the sector and demonstrated how private-sector companies are successfully employing innovative approaches such as anchor farms/contract farming to grow their businesses.
The forum also addressed other related matters, including financing options for agricultural activities; traditional and non-traditional crop opportunities; land availability and suitability issues; marketing of agricultural products locally and overseas; and government initiatives and programmes to support agriculture, such as agro parks and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) support to farmers.
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