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Kingston, Jamaica, August 7, 2017:  Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips is celebrating the contribution of farmers to the development of Jamaica over the years, but calls for more assistance to bring farming methods into the 21st century; and says, the country must do more to support the faithful farmers who have guaranteed our food security for many years.

Dr. Phillips was speaking at the 65th staging of Denbigh Agricultural Show, Denbigh, Clarendon on Sunday, August 6, 2017.

“Too many of our farms are using technology not of the 21st century, not even of the 20th century, but technology found in the 19th, which relied on rain with   no adequate irrigation systems; and without advanced mechanical devices to plow the land. Our farmers have to be supported to do better,” he says.

Dr. Phillips says that improving our farmers’ lot is one of the ways to bridge the gap between those who have too few and those who have too many.

“Too many of our farmers still operate without the support of marketing which is available to other farmers in other countries. I say this, not to blame anyone, but to make the point that as we go forward into the next phase of our independence, we must determine not only to feed ourselves but to feed ourselves by supporting a modern farming community.

“This is the only way forward, to build a Jamaica that works for all the people because, for too many years, we accepted a Jamaica that works for too few, while leaving too many on the margins of existence,” Phillips pointed out.

Going forward, Dr. Phillips said, the government must find a replacement for the Rural Economic Development Initiative, (REDI), to continue the development of micro and small-scale farming enterprises.

The project, which began in January 2010, aimed to improve market access for micro and small-scale rural agricultural producers, and tourism projects, but the scope needed expansion to achieve success on a larger scale. Dr. Phillips says, he is disappointed that REDI has ended and there is no official word from the government about a replacement.

“I’m hoping that some replacement will be found soon because it is going to be this kind of careful effort that will provide the modern technique as it did with greenhouses. I think it needs to be expanded to look at irrigation systems. It was helping with marketing in a limited way. So overall, it was breaking typical barriers by recognizing that the ordinary Jamaican farmer was a vital part of the production system,” he says.

REDI also included the development of a community-based tourism policy and implementation strategy, as well as the completion of a pig survey and pork value chain analysis, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.