New administration targeting agriculture to create investment and jobs — Hayles

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at- Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — NEWLY appointed Junior Agriculture and Fisheries minister Ian Hayles, says his administration will be looking to agriculture to create sustainable investment and employment.


"We all know that jobs are lacking in the sector and in the island overall. But there are some sectors that can get us some immediate jobs and long-term jobs also, and I believe that there is no other sector and no other ministry that can create jobs as the ministry of agriculture, bearing in mind the multiplier effect that it has," he explained.


He said among the crops that will be given priority attention by his ministry are cocoa, turmeric and ginger.


"When we look at cocoa for example, we will have to revive the entire industry because we are really not satisfying the market that we have for it. The same goes for turmeric, and more importantly ginger," Hayles told the Observer West.


The 40-year-old Hayles, who was returned as Member of Parliament for Western Hanover in the December 29 general election, said his ministry will also be examining ways to attract youths to the agricultural sector.


"One of the big problems is how to attract young professionals into farming and so we have to find a way how to engage them and also to make farmers; earn to take care of their families, while at the same time create a robust ministry of agriculture in going forward," he argued.


Noting that the country's annual food import bill is roughly US$700 million, the junior minister said his administration, also plans to reduce food imports on a phased basis.


"Cutting our food import bill will enable us to increase production which will allow the economy to grow and create jobs," he emphasised.


Hayles said he and Agriculture minister Roger Clarke plan to bring a "sense of business" to the agriculture sector, in a bid to ensure that the goals of the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration can be accomplished.


Hayles, whose Western Hanover constituency has in recent years seen a marked decline in agriculture, told the Observer West that he plans to reverse the trend.


He said he plans to increase the production of turmeric, cocoa and yam in the constituency, within the "shortest possible time".


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