Remarks by the Hon. Derrick Kellier, CD, MP - Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

Signing of Contracts for the National Farm Roads Rehabilitation Programme

February 2, 2016

Banquet Hall, Jamaica House


This contract signing this morning represents a very tangible and a very important step in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ drive to pursue our commitment to achieve sustainable food security for the people of Jamaica, even as we continue to grow the sector and make it a strong pillar of the economy.

There can be no doubt that the farmers of this country are committed to these goals and it is a tribute to them that despite the challenges of diseases and the vagaries of the weather,  which have been intensified by climate change, they stand tall, indefatigable, resilient and undaunted in growing agriculture. 

Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the farmers of Jamaica contribute daily to what is best about our country and they deserve every recognition for their valiant contribution to our rural communities and our national economy. As investors and entrepreneurs, our farmers and other stakeholders in the industry continue to play their part.

As Government, we also have our part to play and indeed we have been providing the enabling environment and setting the policy framework to facilitate increased viability, competitiveness and productivity of the agricultural sector. Those issues lie squarely within the remit of Government. And that is why we are rehabilitating these farm roads across the 13 parishes of the country that are involved in agricultural production.

We at the Ministry believe that we have been making significant strides in the growth and modernization of the sector as evidenced in the:

  • Decline of our food import bill
  • Establishment and planned expansion of our agro-parks
  • Investment of close to $2 billion in providing new irrigation systems in the agro-parks and other farming areas
  • Investment of $6 billion under the Sugar Transformation Programme to provide and upgrade houses, schools, libraries, clinics, sports facilities, roads, water supply systems and other community infrastructure in sugar cane-producing and dependent areas
  • Investment of over $216 million in the revitalisation of the banana industry, thereby facilitating the resumption of the export trade to the United Kingdom;
  • Investment of over $3.4 billion in mitigation and  adaptation programmes to provide short, medium and long-term solutions to the emerging challenges of climate change
  • The introduction and support of new industries, such as new sweet potato varieties and the commercial use of cassava
  • Achievement of self-sufficiency in table Irish potato and the introduction of a similar programme for the production of onions and
  • Investment in the fisheries, poultry and other livestock sectors.

Madam Prime Minister, we are moving in the right direction. And as we continue  to pursue our mission to modernize the agricultural sector and make it truly sustainable,  we recognize that significant public investment in public goods, such as roads, irrigation, research, extension services and social transformation,  is required.

Indeed the supporting infrastructure also requires maintenance. Over the years, we have unfortunately approached the rehabilitation and maintenance of farm roads on an ad hoc basis and have been dependent on the generosity of our international partners to fund projects from time to time.

With the introduction of this National Farm Roads Rehabilitation Programme, we are now taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the rehabilitation and maintenance of our farm roads.

For the first time, in a joined-up Government approach, our Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been given budgetary allocations by the Ministry of Finance and Planning specifically for farm roads. This is game changing.

The contracts we sign today represent another significant step in the right direction.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an abiding faith in the agricultural industry and its contribution to national development. Indeed, the growth and transformation of this industry is a national project behind which the whole country must rally! We need to stand side by side with our farmers as we continue to go for growth!

As we sign these contracts for the National Farm Roads Rehabilitation Programme, today, we look forward to good days ahead!

May God bless us all.