Agrofest 2018 showcases best of Kingston and St Andrew's agriculture

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) President Norman Grant wants a $1 billion revolving credit facility to help farmers fund their expansion of agricultural production.

Grant made the proposal during the staging of Agrofest 2018, on the grounds of the Jamaica Horticultural Society, Hope Pastures, St Andrew on May 26.

Grant suggested a $1-billion revolving credit facility, at a four to five per cent interest rate, was needed to assist farmers with funding for the expansion of agricultural production.

“Additional funding is also required to assist in recovery efforts for farmers hit by recent floods, as well as to set up a national insurance scheme for farmers and a victim compensation fund to protect farmers impacted by praedial larceny and other perils,” the JAS head said.

He also suggested the need for improved infrastructure to support farmers efforts, and congratulated the government for allocating $800 million for farm roads in the recent budget

Agrofest is staged annually by the Kingston and St Andrew Association of Branch Societies of the JAS, in association with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Rural Agricutural Development Authority (RADA) St Andrew, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, and the Mavis Bank Coffee factor.

During his address to the farmers Grant also confirmed recent reports that he would not be able to continue as president of the JAS after the current term, which ends later this year, as the society's rules restrict presidents serving more than two consecutive terms. However, Grant also noted that he has nominated as first vice-president of the society and that he has accepted the nomination.

A poll to elect a new JAS president will be held during the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon on July 11.

Agrofest is normally staged close to Labour Day in May, under the theme 'grow what we eat and eat what we grow' on the Jamaica College grounds. However, the society had to find a new venue this year as the school has incorporated the area used for the show into its development plans, hence the move into Hope Pastures.

The minster of agriculture and fisheries is normally the main speaker at the annual event. However, current minister, Audley Shaw, was unable to attend, as he was in Canada on government business. But, Opposition spokesman on agriculture, Dr Fenton Ferguson, who was present, fitted into the guest speaker spot following a brief tour of the grounds, accompanied by Grant.

Ferguson expressed support for Blue Mountain coffee farmers in their quest for improved roads, increased prices per box for the coffee and increased funding for agriculture from the national budget in light of the sector's contribution to nation-building.

He also urged the Government to provide more price support to the coffee farmers, as well as a production incentive grant to motivate Blue Mountain coffee farmers during this challenging period.

Shantel McLean emerged as the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Farm Queen following a competitive selection process.

Meanwhile, Mt Salus, JAS branch society, won the main prize for branch societies. Second was the Lawrence Tavern JAS, while Hall's Delight JAS came third.

Champion exhibitor was H&L Agro. The Champion Blue Mountain Coffee Farmer for the Parish of St Andrew was Ainsley Edwards, second was Ian Robinson, and third was Bryan Johnson.

Grant noted that, despite the challenges of having to change venue from the Jamaica College grounds, over 60 exhibitors took part, with other features including agro-industrial and JAS branch displays, horticultural exhibitions, a farmers' market, Champion Blue Mountain Coffee Farmer competition, 4-H Club competition, Eat Jamaican Cook Off, a Kiddies Village and varied family entertainment.

The annual parish agricultural show was introduced by the Kingston and St. Andrew Association of Branch Societies/JAS in 1971 at Golden Spring, under the leadership of then president, the late, Thelma King.

After a 25-year absence, it was re-introduced in the year 1996 under the leadership of Grant.

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