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Manufacturing and agriculture a big part of our future

Friday, September 18, 2020

Dear Editor,

One important lesson that this pandemic has taught us is that we were too focused on the tourism sector and not enough attention was being paid to manufacturing and agriculture. The former, which is a very important sector, is the only portfolio without a designated ministry, despite its importance. Without the productive and agriculture sector the country would essentially have no food to consume at this time.

Yes, tourism is a very important part of the puzzle, but the puzzle cannot be complete without the other pieces. The tourism sector has always received incentives to build out their industry. I cannot recall in recent times any significant incentives that were afforded to the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Building out these sectors would ensure our food security and make us less vulnerable to external shocks that we, no doubt, will experience from time to time.

Despite the current challenges, the manufacturing sector continues to produce and provide the Government with much-needed revenue. Manufacturing is tough, and if the Government wants to expand this industry it will have to make it more attractive. Many facilities need to retool and modernise. They also need to adapt world food safety standards so that they can maximise output and supply export markets.

There is a lot of apathy in the sector at this time as there is no clear direction/plan from our leaders. We need to address this in a meaningful way now.

As I have said before, the agricultural sector needs more structure. The agro-processing industry will drive this sector so it must work in tandem with the farmers. Many farmers plant without first finding a market for their produce. We also need to improve our post-harvest facilities/techniques. Onions, when harvested, need to be placed in a dryer to improve their shelf-life. A lot of local onions in the market are spoilt as the produce goes directly into the market from the field.

It is clear that more attention needs to be given to the manufacturing and agricultural sector moving forward. The Government needs to work closely with the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) and the related agencies to give them opportunity to help to chart a way forward that will without a doubt reap great success in the years to come.


Andrew Gray