MANDEVILLE, Manchester-People’s National Party (PNP) North East Manchester caretaker Valenton (Val) Wint believes that going the route of co-operatives is an effective way of boosting agriculture and helping to activate the much-touted Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
Wint told farmers at the annual general meeting of the Christiana Potato Growers’ Association in Manchester on Thursday that the Government should be lobbied in order that all Jamaicans can make a contribution to help in the development of agriculture similar to how people make payments to the National Housing Trust (NHT).
WINT… Government must find a way of qualifying the traditional farmers.
“We see the world is now looking at food security. If we are very serious about it we would love to lobby the Government that all Jamaicans make a national contribution the same way we make a contribution to Housing Trust,” Wint said.
“You make a one per cent or half per cent contribution to the sustainability of farming in this country. The fact is the money would go a far way in providing cheaper loans for you. I don’t know if you know that Housing Trust is one of the richest industries in Jamaica … rich because it is a national endeavour,” he said.
Wint said that agriculture is one of the most competitive industries in the world and if Jamaica loses out on farming, the Jamaican people will “die of starvation”.
However, he said that there are areas in the agriculture industry which need to be addressed in order for “career” farmers to benefit adequately from the resources that are made available to them.
Wint said that the formation of co-operatives prevent persons doing farming as “sidelines”, from benefiting more from government support than the ones who do it as their main source of qualifying the traditional income.
“We really want the assistance the assistance Government to realise that doesn’t go in the wrong they must find a way of direction,” he said.
He said that as much as the persons who do farming on a part-time basis help to reduce the need for imported goods and foreign exchange, “we can’t create an industry that kills the market that takes it as its livelihood”.
Wint said that co-operatives can help the benefits gained from agriculture to be more evenly distributed among persons with varying degrees of skills and resources.
“We want to go back to the kind of co-operatives where all stakeholders benefit in one way or the other. You have some young boys now who are very energetic but they have no land, they have no money, they have no seeds. We want to go back to the days when you can employ them, pay them a small sum to work but they become a part of your co-operative.
“When the crop comes in they are getting their equal share. Some will be contributing labour, some may be contributing the seed and those with the wherewithal, the land, and some… the money. This is something that can work. I look at this as one way of mobilising the JEEP that we talk about. Those of you who have the resources can really pull together those unemployed youngsters. If you can bring them to a cooperative that they trust, then you can find employment for them,” he said.
Wint said that with the collective effort of persons in the agriculture industry and the assistance of government to facilitate affordable money and moratorium on loans farmers will be able to move towards other industries which will enable them to get maximum value from what is produced.