14 Aug Opposition seeks clarity on future of agro parks
Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, Dr. Dayton Campbell is calling on Minister of Agriculture, Karl Samuda to indicate the Administration’s policy on agro parks, in light of statements made by Minister JC Hutchinson. The Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries with responsibility for Agriculture Mr JC Hutchinson as carried in the papers today August 11, 2016 states that “You hear about the big agro-parks and they are the ones that are going to be the salvation of this country, nutten nuh go suh! Agriculture has been growing many years without agroparks, and you the small farmers are the ones who have been growing agriculture without agro-parks. What needs to be done is for you to get a little more help, a little more boost, so that you can get it going much better than it is at this point in time”. The Opposition asserts that Agro-Parks, though not a panacea, has tremendous potential to help this country GROW, Generate Revenue from our Work. We must preserve and augment them.
There was 13% growth in Agriculture over the last quarter; this was largely due to the production in the Agro-Parks. We currently have 9 Agro-Parks with over 4,000 acres under production the food import bill decreased by 15% in 2015 that is a savings of 10.5 billion over 2014 due to increase production; we must get the existing agro-parks to full production capacity through completion of the infrastructure works and then move to establish new agro-parks. Irish potatoes- we achieved 90% self-sufficiency and onion development program has moved from 7% of market in 2013 to 12.6% in 2015 This growth clearly transcends political administrations and is welcomed by all, this is the result of careful planning and the investments of hundreds of millions into these Agro-Parks. Programs through RADA and JAS must be bolstered in order to support these farmers. The Minister has taken a unilateral decision to remove the production incentive and to channel these aids through PMOs. The Minister needs to explain fully:
1) What is a PMO?
2) What is the structure of PMOs?
3) Are these PMOs registered farmer’s group with registered farmers as members?
4) Is it true that JLP councillors and constituency chairmen are associated with these groups? 5) Was an allocation of several million dollars made to PMOs in St. Elizabeth and other western parishes?
6) Does he have any personal relationships with any of the chairperson of a PMO?
7) Does he have any personal relationships with persons who own farm stores through which these funds have been spent?
The answer to these questions will provide a rationale for the Minister’s actions thus far.