Charles wants to change the ‘straw hat and boots’ image of agribusiness | Business

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Pearl Charles Jr envisions a new image of the agricultural sector that is represented by individuals using robotic systems and other advanced technologies instead of what he describes as “the ‘man in straw hat and boots working in the fields’.

It is a wish list on which he wants to act quickly in order to attract more people to the field and to strengthen the economic contribution of the sector.

His industry redevelopment plan, which in 2020 contributed 8.68% to gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, involves what the minister calls more serious discussions with institutions. banks on affordable financing for farmers and increased investment in technology.

To retain and attract more Jamaicans to the sector, Charles wants to initiate discussions on agricultural insurance, farmers’ pensions and the reintroduction of agricultural studies from the primary or pre-school level.

Agricultural studies is currently taught in secondary schools through Jamaican 4H clubs, but is restricted to people who are members of the movement. To expand the scheme school-wide, Charles is expected to engage with Education Minister Fayval Williams. Jamaica 4H also trains young people between the ages of five and 25 in household economics skills.

“The time has come for agriculture to become the top priority, the time has come for us to attract our young people, to train them not only in terms of qualifications – the license and the master’s degree. We’re talking about young people who appreciate and understand,” Charles said, while addressing the Agribusiness Investment Forum of the Agro-Investment Corporation on Thursday.

“There was a time when every child who went to primary school in Jamaica had to plant a tree. I want us to get back to where our boys and girls understand from an early age, when they come out of high school and become potential agripreneurs, or come out of college and become agri-investors,” a- he declared.

In crop and livelihoods insurance, three insurers, the newest of which is GK General Insurance through GK Weather Protect, provide targeted coverage to Jamaica’s 220,000 farmers and 26,000 fishers. The minister wants more options for insurance as well as retirement savings and project financing.

Public marketing agency Jampro was tasked with taking the lead in exploring funding opportunities. The Ministry of Agriculture, with the help of the Agro-Investment Corporation, AIC, is still working on other initiatives, some of which it could speak on during its sectoral presentation to Parliament scheduled for May 10.

Jampro President Diane Edwards said the agency had already had a closed meeting with the banking industry to speak candidly about the issues surrounding access to credit.

“There is something wrong with the concept that it is easier for you to go to the bank to get a loan for a Benz than for a tractor, both depreciating assets, but in different categories . We need to change the way we see this and we need to start those conversations with financial institutions,” Charles said.

AIC has 5,300 acres of land under management, including eight agroparks and nine agricultural production areas. Some 500 farmers work the land.

“We need to make good use of the land we have, especially now that everyone is talking about food security. We are moving, but we still have a lot to do. I want to make sure that every acre under management is maximized in use, unlocking the potential,” said Charles.

“All of this must be done by teaching our young people how to do what they already see as their future, farming in Jamaica; but not just farming, where you have a straw hat and boots. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we want to see how being innovators, creators bringing computerized technology can change the industry,” he said.

[email protected]

About Lolita Plowman

Check Also

More than 9 million Indians at risk of hunger due to climate change: report

According to the report, the average temperature across India is expected to increase by 2.4°C …