Ottawa, Canada — Jamaica's agricultural sector is set to receive a major boost courtesy of the Government of Canada, which says the planned assistance will form part of efforts to grow the island's economy.
The disclosure was made on Monday by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper while addressing a press conference convened in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, as part of efforts to welcome his Jamaican counterpart, Portia Simpson Miller, who is on her first official visit to Canada, as prime minister.
The announcement came amidst concerns regarding the fragile state of the Jamaican economy and pronouncements by the Simpson Miller Administration that agriculture is one of the areas that could contribute to economic growth.
"Earlier today, we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to increase trade and investments as the most effective responses to hemispheric economic challenges," said Harper. "I am happy to announce that through co-operation between non-governmental organisations and CIDA's (Canadian International Development Agency's) Caribbean regional programme, our Government will assist Jamaican farmers. It will assist them in selling into high value markets, and it will assist at-risk communities in disaster preparedness."
He stated that he was aware of the challenges confronting Jamaica, but highlighted the need to increase trade and investments as the best way to pull Jamaica out of its challenges.
"As you know, when you look at all the challenges that confront a whole range of economies today, the easiest way to deal with those challenges is to try and promote growth," said Harper, whose country sits on the board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"We are certainly aware of the challenges, not just our own hemispheric challenges, but particular challenges in the case of Jamaica. As you know, Canada is responsible for representing Jamaica on the International Board of the IMF, so we are very familiar with the challenges in that regard," he declared.
Meanwhile, in extending gratitude to the Canadian prime minister, Simpson Miller spoke of the close ties that exist between Jamaica and Canada and identified several areas in which Jamaicans continue to benefit from the support.
"It is not surprising that we feel welcomed in this great country," she said. "In the last 50 years, many Jamaicans who have settled here have become a part of the rich fabric of life that makes up Canada's diverse society."
He reference was to the important contribution of Canada through tourism, mining and other investments as well as in the financial services.
Simpson Miller used the event to assert that Jamaica has been working hard to promote growth. "We are working very hard, we are being very fiscally prudent, we are working to promote growth and development through job creation, and at the same time trying to see what can be done to protect the most vulnerable among us," she said. "I am sure that not long from now Jamaica will be able to turn the corner."
Following the official reception at the Parliament building in Ottawa, both prime ministers, along with their delegation, flew to Toronto where they participated in a series of engagements.
Simpson Miller was scheduled to leave for Jamaica on Friday, but shortened her stay because of the threat of Tropical Storm Sandy and was expected back in the island last night.