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St Mary farmer wants Government to do more for small farmers

BY RENAE DIXON
Observer staff reporter
dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, October 02, 2017

A St Mary farmer is today chiding Government over what he believes is its “poor” management of the agriculture sector.

Robert Wellington, a farmer from Islington in the parish, said he believes Government is not doing enough for small farmers and for the development of agriculture in the country.

Wellington, who volunteered to speak on behalf of small farmers, also lamented the poor road conditions that farmers have to deal with and the lack of markets for produce which, he claims, continue to go to waste.

The former member of the Jamaica Defence Force, who has been farming for the past 32 years, told the Jamaica Observer North & East that he has written letters and tried many avenues to get his message to Government, but, to date nothing has happened.

The farmer said he may not be among the affluent and very influential in society, but he believes he has good advice for Government regarding agricultural development.

“I am disappointed about the way in which Government deals with small farmers in this country,” Wellington said.

He explained to Observer North & East that he has some 14 acres of family land in Islington, which carries a variety of long-term crops including: breadfruit, ackee, jackfruit, june plum, pimento, coconut, and avocado. He also has seven acres of cocoa and plants bananas, plantains and pineapples.

“Even though the cocoa is good, I do not pick it because of the bad condition of the farm roads,” Wellington shared.

He said other farmers have also not been able to take their produce from farms because of the poor road conditions they encounter.

Added to that, he wants the Government to bring back the Agriculture Marketing Corporation which was introduced by former Prime Minister Michael Manley.

“Most of the time our crops spoil because we don't have enough market in which to take our produce. At times it is not encouraging,” Wellington stated.

He said the Agriculture Marketing Corporation would be more encouraging to farmers, adding that although prices were cheap, farmers benefitted.

“With due respect to the Government of today, I do not see any of the government putting enough emphasis on agriculture,” a very passionate Wellington said.

“When you look around to see many of our natural fruits going to waste such as mangoes, apples and guavas — and the main reason for this is because we do not have enough processing factories to process these fruits. The price of bag juice is going up every year and we do not get any nutritional value from it, and our natural fruits that have so many nutrients in them go back to mother earth,” Wellington continued.

He said farmers are able to produce crops such as tomatoes, carrots and watermelons to keep factories running, and added that he would like to see Jamaica start doing more food processing.

“We adopt most of the American style, but in America nothing goes to waste. They store what they have and process it. I would like to see some of this happening in Jamaica,” he said.

The farmer said more Jamaicans would be willing to work in agriculture if they could see the benefits of what they are working for. Wellington said he wants to see more farmers benefiting from more than fertiliser and seeds.

“If the Government put half of what they put in tourism in agriculture, within three years we would be surprised to see the changes in the country,” Wellington added.

The farmer believes agriculture is the answer to the country's economic problems.

“We know that tourism brings in a lot of income and create employment for the country, but let us not forget that agriculture is our natural resource, and if this monster crime increases, then the tourists will go, so we say agriculture is the answer.

“All developing countries work their way through agriculture by putting the people to work and pay them well. This helps to solve most of the problems,” Wellington continued.