Financial institutions still bypassing agriculture – Dr Ronald Blake
Chief of Party for the United States Department of Agriculture Food for Progress Jamaica Spices project, Dr Ronald Blake, used the recent launch at the AC Hotel by Marriott to call out financial institutions for their failure to offer competitive development loans to the local agricultural sector.The support, he notes, would be key to facilitate infrastructure overhaul and other necessary investments in technology and climate-smart innovations to give Jamaica the competitive edge it so desperately needs.
“You do not have good financial projects for the agricultural sector,” Dr Blake bluntly declared.
“Not for spices and one of the things that we will be doing this project … and I am happy to see my friends from the major financial institutions – because one of the things that we have to do is work on a financial project that is suitable to the spices sector. And I am not saying that we don’t need to do that for the rest of the sector. We need do that and so it is going to be an important part of this project,” he stated.
Under the five-year Food for Progress Jamaica Spices project which will be carried out across all 14 parishes, there will be increased access to good-quality planting material, especially for ginger which has been decimated by the ginger rhizome rot disease.
“We will be providing inputs and technical support as a key activity. We’ll also be building capacity so the whole issue of research and development will be key in terms of developing disease resistant (crops) as well as introducing climate-smart technology,” Dr Blake shared.
Component two will focus on increasing sustainability, production and farmer resilience and this will be twinned with strong training component, with the strengthening of marketing connections locally and overseas. In fact, production will be market-driven. The project is expected to touch on every aspect of the agricultural value chain – from primary production to agro-processing, research and development, as well as nursery activities.