DENBIGH, Clarendon — Plans are well underway to roll out an app that will give farmers direct access, from their digital devices, to the agriculture ministry. It is one of the ways, according to Minister of Agriculture Pearnel Charles Jr, in which technological advancement is being harnessed to revolutionise the sector and improve the economy, ushering in a new era in agriculture. He warned, however, that those who refuse to embrace the changes that technology will bring will be left behind.
"When I checked with RADA [Rural Agricultural Development Authority] I was surprised to know that they already had a digital application that is being finalised to be pushed out so all farmers will have access from their computers, phones or tablets with information to help you farmers to produce and to connect with RADA and the Ministry of Agriculture," he said.
He made the comments while delivering the main address on Saturday, day one of the 68th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show. Capitalising on technology, the minister added, will help Jamaica and the region grow smart and eat smart.
"When we talk about innovation in agriculture, we not just talking about drones. But I have seen for myself drones now being used in production in Jamaica to improve efficiency to use less, to waste less and to produce more. This is what we talk about when we say Jamaica is going to grow smart and eat smart. We not only producing more but we're doing it in an efficient way. So as we produce more, we reduce what we lose and we find ways to partner with groups like the FAO that are giving support for us to put in place cold storages so we can extend the life of our products," Charles Jr said.
This, he explained, will extend the opportunity for value-added products.
"So when we send plantain to the market and some leave, it will not waste. We will be able to store it and preserve it and process it and make chips and porridge and whatever leave we will still find a way to use it, even the trash," he boasted.
"The point is the new era of agriculture in Jamaica is the era of innovation and efficiency towards sustainability and food security. We don't only want high productivity when it comes on to domestic crops; we want high productivity when it comes on to our human capital, which is the most important thing. When we ensure that what we grow is nutritious that's how we are going to protect our country in terms of food security so if there are disruptions in the food supply chain we can feed ourselves," he added.
However, the minister explained that, for this to happen, Jamaicans — and farmers in particular — will have to change their mindset.
"Too many people in Jamaica drop the baton for many reasons. Some, for their own selfish interest, don't want to change. But I'm here as minister to tell you, change is coming whether you like it or not because this is the new era of agriculture in Jamaica where we will do things that will make sense for Jamaica and the region; even if it doesn't make sense for you. We have to provide food for our people," he said.
Despite the challenges in the country's agricultural sector, the minister noted that production and exports are up so too is bee production. He added that, with the price of fertiliser decreasing, Jamaica is on the right track towards sustainable food security.