Economic Growth Council needs to focus more on agriculture — Pandohie

Economic Growth Council needs to focus more on agriculture — Pandohie

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter

Saturday, February 25, 2017

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Richard Pandohie reckons that the eight initiatives under the Economic Growth Council’s 5 in 4 plan are lacking focus on Jamaica’s agricultural sector.

The chief executive officer of Seprod Ltd who recently announced plans to partner with the Government, private sector and farmers across the island in an effort to revitalise Jamaica’s dairy industry, says too little focus has been placed on the development of a sector that continues to be the main driver of growth in the economy.

"Jamaica’s biggest opportunity for growth is through agro-processing. It’s about taking that primary product that we are producing and adding value to it right up the chain. Otherwise, you are going to end up going to all the manufacturers in Jamaica and realise that a substantial part of their input is coming from abroad," he told the
Jamaica Observer in a round-table interview last Monday.

"That’s not going to add the kind of growth we need. This 5 in 4 growth that they are talking about has to be something transformational. That’s not going to come willingly or by public relations; it has to come from serious work on the ground and agriculture, agro-processing linked into manufacturing. Value added is what’s going to drive it."

His sentiment follows the launch of the EGC’s call to action last year, which seeking to get Jamaica up to five per cent growth by 2020. Under the initiative, the EGC has outlined eight strategies that could have the country performing at the planned growth level within the time frame.

The eighth growth strategy – catalyse the implementation of strategic projects – speaks to upgrading and expanding agro parks and agro-processing projects, but had no details about how the council expects to get the work done.

Other initiatives, however, such as improving access to finance, pursue bureaucratic reform to improve the business environment and harnessing the power of the diaspora could prove beneficial to the sector through the promotion of brand Jamaica and improved trade.

Nonetheless, Pandohie wants the Government and its counterpart to do more. He has outlined issues such as import volume cap, increase the number of Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) officers, veterinarians and qualified, trained personnel to impregnate animals, irrigation, praediel larceny as some of the issues that need the Government’s urgent attention.

"It’s not just the farm with a hoe anymore; you need those processes but you need the veterinarians to be there, researchers, engineers. Look how we do sugar cane. People are chopping canes with machete in this day and age? It’s a disgrace! So the whole productivity around agriculture and agro-processing has to improve," he told
Sunday Finance.

Reports from the Planning Institute of Jamaica over the years has pointed to the goods-producing industry as the main driver of growth, with agriculture, forestry and fishing being the sector that produces the most growth.

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda, at a luncheon hosted by the
Jamaica Observer on Friday, reasoned that the agriculture sector is expected to contribute at least three per cent of the targeted five per cent growth by 2020, and is implementing initiatives to improve the sector’s performance.

"The Government has to ensure that the policies are in place to sustain agricultural growth. You cannot have multiple contradictory policies in place at the same time," Pandohie noted.

"I agree with the minister; agriculture is the key driver but I am concerned about the 5 in 4 plan because it seems to be very focused on BPOs and tourism, as opposed to what’s required as a nation to move forward," he said.

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