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Wehby presents plan to boost Jamaican agriculture

Wehby presents plan to boost Jamaican agriculture
Senator Don Wehby (GP)

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Andrew Holness-led administration has developed and is in the process of implementing a National Strategy to grow the Agribusiness Industry.

Opening the 2021/22 State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday, Government Senator, Don Wehby, said one of the key recommendations in the Strategy was the establishment of a Food Security and Agribusiness Council (FSAC).

Wehby, who is Group Chief Executive Officer at GraceKennedy Limited, disclosed that in the first instance, the FSAC will execute the four-year agribusiness strategy.

It is expected that the Council will be outcome-focused and guide the implementation of the Action Plan developed under this Strategy, as well as the development of a National Agriculture Development Plan and Strategy that will ensure long-term sustainability and growth of the industry.

He said JAMPRO’s promotion of the agribusiness sector includes activities in the following areas: large scale climate smart agriculture, improvement of land access; improvement in the use of technology in agriculture, and the development of marketing strategies for the Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and the yam subsector.

Meanwhile, he is challenging Jamaicans to reduce the country’s food import bill by 50 per cent.

He noted that during 2019, the value of food imports was US$1 billion, with approximately 44 per cent of the imports supplied via sources in the United States.

“We need to cut that food import bill in half and I have set myself in terms of our company by 2030. We cannot continue to have that level of food imports in Jamaica,” he emphasised.

Senator Wehby noted that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture have been seen, underscoring that the pandemic places countries like Jamaica’s food security at risk, because of the heavy reliance on imports.

He suggested that less reliance could be achieved by investing heavily in agro-processing, manufacturing, and agriculture, by ensuring farmers had good crop insurance and technical training to mass-produce certain items.

“If we are going to have sustainable growth in Jamaica, we have to have a really robust agricultural sector – both for export and for import,” Wehby said.

The Debate gives Cabinet Ministers in the Senate an opportunity to address their portfolio responsibilities while highlighting Government policies and programmes. All Senators are allowed to contribute to the State of the Nation Debate.

Senators choose the topics on which they speak and are not constrained to a sector, as in the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives. (CMC)