The Denbigh debacle defines us

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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It is really hard to believe that the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show is 65 years old this year, given the current uncertainties over its readiness to host the crowds which usually follow the annual event.

The owners of the show, the venerable Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), must feel a sense of embarrassment that it has come to a place where, barely a month before the three-day event, there is the threat that it could be called off.

Indeed, the sense of embarrassment must be shared by its partners Jamaica Citrus Growers Associations, Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Banana Industry Board, All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association, Cocoa Industry Board, Coffee Industry Board, Jamaica Livestock, and Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment.

The meeting on the weekend between the Ministry of Health; Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries; Clarendon Health Department, and the JAS suggests that the event will go ahead as planned, but only if the various issues which overshadowed it are sorted out to general satisfaction.

For those who came in late, the Clarendon Health Department served notice that the Denbigh Show would not get the green light this year because of certain alleged health breaches, including the absence of food handlers' permits by food vendors, poor sanitary facilities for the public, and the presence of active mosquito-breeding sites at the showground, among others.

The JAS likes to boast that: “The Denbigh show is the oldest, largest and most dynamic agricultural show in the English-speaking Caribbean and one of Jamaica's most iconic events…” Its claim that each year the show reminds us of what we have achieved in agriculture and its related sectors gives us no consolation. If anything, it is a clear sign of how we allow the good things working for us to fall into decay and ruin.

JAS trumpets that the Denbigh show “has enjoyed success as the Caribbean's premier agricultural event, epitomises wholesome family entertainment, and attracts over 80,000 patrons to the event annually”, yet it cannot provide functioning toilets for the patrons.

For sure, patrons over the years have given the show the thumbs up for features such as Ministry of Agriculture's Day, Youth Day, National Farm Queen Competition, Governor General's Day, Denbigh Global Trade Symposium, Jamaica Broilers Gospel Night, Prime Minister's Day, Denbigh Global Trade Symposium and, more recently, Digicel Rising Stars.

We fear that what we are seeing in the breakdown of standards is the normal fare for things agriculture. That, unfortunately, defines our national character.

In that sense, therefore, it is not only a problem for the Jamaica Agricultural Society. Denbigh is an integral part of the notion of a Brand Jamaica. Whatever is the shortcoming, we all need to help hold the hand of the JAS and fix it.




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