Clarke pledges non-partisan support for agriculture

Clarke pledges non-partisan support for agriculture

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 03, 2011

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Opposition spokesman on agriculture Roger Clarke, though eyeing the People's National Party's (PNP's) chance of regaining power in the general election constitutionally due next year, has reiterated his commitment to providing support for agriculture, regardless of the outcome of the polls.

"If there is one area that Jamaica can rest assured will be non-partisan as we go from here, it is in agriculture. If agriculture succeeds I am happy, under whatever watch. I am putting forth my advice, my help, to make sure that we can work together," Clarke said while addressing the ninth annual general meeting of the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association (JPFA) at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville last Thursday.

He assured the gathering of pig farmers and other stakeholders that as long as he had anything to do with it, the pig farming industry would never die.

"With the involvement of all these young people you're gonna grow from strength to strength ... some small farmers are dropping out but others are coming in and the industry is going to be sustained," he said. He urged the farmers to "deal in a serious way with value-added" as they seek to go into wider markets.

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr Marc Panton, who represented Agriculture Minister Robert Montaque, said that he has more faith in the pig industry than any other animal industry and also gave his assurance to stay committed in spite of the leadership.

Dr Panton cited among the advantageous sustainability factors for the industry the unity of stakeholders, the ministry's relative control in terms of reducing external competition, strong private sector interest, strong government regulatory support and the near self-sufficiency of the industry which will help them to access other markets and get greater leverage in promoting brand Jamaica.

He said that the JPFA, though a strong association that would want to help all the farmers, "cannot be everything to everybody" and the way forward will call for "strengthened support to a minimum critical mass as a farmer".

"Some people are going to just really get the very basic support that we can offer and others who have that potential to grow in terms of efficiency and will — you work with those to drive them. That way you develop your industry and eventually those who are straggling behind will catch on and perhaps pull themselves up when they see the level of increased efficiency of those pig farmers as they hit that critical mass," he said.

"If we plan to develop as an industry it is not business as usual; it means absolute best practice," said Dr Panton.

Guest speaker, vice-president of academic programmes at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) Major Johnathan Lamey said that five scholarships and $6 million, mostly in the form of a loan, were given to the institution by Montaque recently.

He said that one of the areas that will benefit is the pigry where production and output will be doubled.

New president of the JPFA Ivan Campbell, who has been with the pig industry for 22 years, said that he will be working as hard as he could to make the area viable.

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