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Agriculture is the Future According to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries

 Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr, wants more of the nation’s youth and women to see agriculture as a viable investment opportunity.

Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural hybrid Agribusiness Investment Forum, hosted by the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC) on Thursday, April 21 , Charles said he wants to make youngsters “excited about [agriculture] and to see that it’s viable.”

The minister said young people should be encouraged to see farmers as innovators and creators, and to utilise the appropriate technology.

“Bring in the drone technology, bring in the computerisation and use of digital [applications]…and let our youngsters from early childhood, three and four year-olds, be excited about it. Let’s change the way we introduce agriculture to them,” he said.

Outlining some of the projects that the ministry is using to expand the sector, the minister noted a major investment in the Holland Agro-economic zone.

“We have secured investment of $120 million for our Holland Agro-economic zone where a factory is being constructed right now to expand agro-processing …and there’s a lot of potential there that we have to unlock,” he said.

Charles spoke of the trying times the world is currently facing, and what the latter means for Jamaica’s food security.

“We choose, at the AIC, to see these challenges as an opportunity; we see them as compelling us to redefine our approach and to recognise the true impetus of what the AIC is here to do,” Charles said.

This includes facilitating investments on a large scale, identifying and strengthening Jamaica’s comparative advantages, utilising idle lands and formulating partnerships.

The minister said there are eight agro-parks, nine agricultural production zones and 5,308 acres under the management of the AIC, with more than 500 farmers.

He also noted, “We have 810 acres that have been allocated for the development of the mango agro-park at Toll Gate, Clarendon and we are managing the process and have attracted over 50 investors and placed already 14 of the 50.

“We’ve also spent $120 million developing the property, supporting irrigation, roads and other infrastructure, and for this financial year, another 70 million dollars has been allocated for further development. The investment in the mango agro park amounted to over $270 million,” he continued.

Charles said Jamaica is looking to tap into markets in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere, indicating that “we have a goldmine and a brand name that is exceptional.”

Dubbing farming as the future of Jamaica, Charles highlighted that in the last financial year, 40 youths were added to agro-parks and production zones.

“I want us to get back to [a time when] every one of our boys and girls understood at an early age that when they get out of university and become the potential investors, and when they move out of high school and become the potential ‘agro-preneurs’, they would already be fitted with the culture that this is viable,” the minister said.

The forum, which was attended by some 500 participants both physically and across virtual platforms, included presentations and networking opportunities from major stakeholders, investors and partners within the agriculture sector.

Source: https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latest-news/agriculture-is-the-future-says-charles/


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