PM calls for more J’cans to get involved in agriculture

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has joined the call for more Jamaicans “from all walks of life” to venture into agriculture, emphasising that the sector is an important contributor to the growth of the Jamaican economy.

“We should never limit agriculture, because the moment that we limit agriculture to being merely a manual and domestic endeavour, then we limit ourselves and the potential for growth. Make no mistake, agriculture is big business, and it should run the gamut,” the prime minister said.

He was speaking at the official launch of the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project, held at the Lititz Primary School in St Elizabeth on Wednesday.

“We must dispense with the historical and social issues that have limited our perception and our understanding of agriculture. As I stand here, I want to tell you… I want to go into farming. I believe it is one of the most rewarding and noble endeavours, and we want more Jamaicans from all walks of life, whether you wear a bush jacket or fancy shirt or jacket and tie, to get involved. All of us must put our hands in the soil and turn it and create some value,” Holness said.

The project, which represents one of the largest investments in irrigation infrastructure in Jamaica, will impact the livelihoods of over 700 farmers on 718 hectares of land, through the provision of irrigation water and improved access to local and global agricultural markets.

Holness said that the Government, through “vertical integration”, will seek to spur growth in the agricultural sector, through infrastructural improvements and increasing investment in the sector.

“For agriculture to grow, you must look at what is called vertical integration. You must create not just production opportunities of the crop, but you have to create the processing facilities and infrastructure. On top of that, you have to create the markets for the distribution, and then you have to parallel with that, the financial systems to support it,” he argued.

In the meantime, the prime minister expressed gratitude to the British government for funding the Essex Valley Development project, stating that any investment in agriculture will propel the country to economic independence.

“Let me say thanks to the British government for its consideration and funding this project through the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund. This is the kind of support that is going to move the needle,” Holness said.

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