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Holness says agricultural sector must embrace technology

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is cautioning against the continued reliance on manual processes in agriculture across the region, arguing that the sector must embrace technology to be more efficient.

He was delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) regional conference for Latin America and the Caribbean yesterday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James.

Holness said that while countries cannot deny the close relationship between traditional culture and many of the country's agricultural practices, “we must continue to appreciate the exponential value that can be created when we infuse our agricultural techniques and processes with technology”.

“This is especially important in the face of climate change. Since 2015, Jamaica has been impacted by drought and by continuous rainfall and floods. And, of course, other Caribbean territories continue to rebuild following the devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria. There is no greater threat to agriculture and to national development than climate change,” he added.

The prime minister emphasised that climate-smart solutions in agriculture are a must, noting that they will help to improve production systems, conserve and use energy, land, water, marine resources, forests, and biodiversity much more efficiently.

“We continue to push the integration of technology in improving irrigation systems, expanding the impact of our agro-park system, and expanding the use of renewable energy,” Holness said.
He said it is incumbent on regional Heads to foster and promote partnerships to maximise food production, adding that it could be costly to do otherwise.

“As we seek to modernise our food-production processes to address hunger and malnutrition, we must also continue to promote rural development and be climate resilient, so as to have a greater and lasting impact,” the prime minister said.

Holness argued that it is important to develop linkages between sectors, pointing to tourism as a significant industry that works hand in hand with agriculture.

“We need to improve the linkages with this industry and others, including agriculture,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that the Tourism Linkages Network epitomises the very idea of promoting partnerships, where hotels of varying sizes are accessing local food markets to meet their needs.

“The ripple effects of such a linkage are varied. They are varied as it relates to expansion in employment, especially in rural Jamaica; expansion in the agro-industry; and investments in technology to not only increase yield, but to produce high-quality food. This Government recognises the importance of leveraging partnerships to achieve growth and development,” Holness added.

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