UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

Jamaica 2019 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Improving road networks and expanding logistics infrastructure are two of MICAF's many initiatives to unleash Jamaica's true potential.

Audley Shaw
BIOGRAPHY
After obtaining a bachelor of arts and a master’s in journalism with graduate studies in marketing, finance, and public relations from Northern Illinois University (NIU), Audley Shaw joined the Chicago Office of Burson-Marseller in 1981 as Client Executive. Later, he joined the Jamaica National Investment Promotion Limited (JNIP) as Director for Public Relations and Advertising. He then widened his scope in the political sphere by joining the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), a party he served as a deputy leader from 1999 to 2013. In March 1993, he was elected as Member of Parliament for North East Manchester, a position he held for six consecutive terms. He has received several awards and served in multiple ministries over his vast career, including his current role, which he was appointed to on March 28, 2018.

What are MICAF's short- and medium-term strategies to increase production and reduce costs in Jamaica's agriculture sector?

We are undertaking the largest farm road rehabilitation program in the history of this country, including upgrading and installing irrigation facilities over the next five years. We are increasing our support for small farmers, including access to technological innovations, marketing contracts, and pre-financing. Similarly, we are boosting new investment in the agricultural sector through the packaging of 3,000ha of arable land—previously sugarcane lands—into alternative industrial production for value chain and export production. In addition, our farmers, as MSMEs, will have access to our financial inclusion initiatives, including capital at affordable interest rates. There is strong positive correlation between increase in agricultural output and growth in the economy. Hence, emphasis is being placed on boosting the agricultural sector.

How will the national farm road rehabilitation program impact local producers?

Approximately JMD450 million has been set aside for the repair of 234.3km of farm roads across the island. The project, being implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), aims to, over time, rehabilitate approximately 420km of rural roads across 98 extension areas in 13 parishes. The objective is to provide an estimated 20,000 farmers island wide with direct access to markets, while improving commuting for residents in the surrounding communities. The road improvement works are expected to result in a 3% increase in production, provide employment for rural farm families, benefit registered farmers, as well as attract new entrants to the agricultural sector. In addition, USD100 million has been set aside to assist farmers with basic production-enhancing information, equipment, facilities, tools, livestock, and planting materials under a broader RADA Production Incentive Project. The objectives include strengthening farmers' resilience to climate change, enabling farmers to reduce production costs, diversifying and strengthening the livelihoods of targeted farmers, and developing an effective agricultural database. The targets for 2018/19 include providing assistance to more than 10,000 farmers through rehabilitation of rainwater ponds, procurement and delivery of additional water tanks to farmers, acquisition of agricultural and farming supplies, rehabilitation of greenhouses, and training farmers in excellent land-husbandry practices.

What are your thoughts on Jamaica becoming the main logistics hub of the Americas?

History has exemplified how strategically we are located. Jamaica is the third-largest English-speaking country in the western hemisphere, and we are the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean. Our physical location, with the expansion of the Panama Canal, makes us the first port of call for large super vessels. There are many ports in the eastern Caribbean as well as the US eastern seaboard that cannot accommodate those super vessels. We have entered into an agreement with CMA/CGM of France, which now operates our ports. As well, we have enhanced our location as a transshipment port. Jamaica will soon become the pioneer that further connects the Caribbean with South America.

What is your assessment of the evolution of fisheries in Jamaica?

We have to protect the environment, especially certain species. The alternative is deep sea fishing, the value for which is estimated at USD400 billion in the western hemisphere alone. Moreover, we are opening new markets and looking at new possibilities, such as sea urchins, black eels, and tuna. One new market that we recently opened is exporting live lobsters to China.

What are the ministry's goals for 2019?

The ministry has three overarching goals: competitive, diversified, and market-oriented agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors that proactively manage risk; an enhanced local business environment including strengthened national quality infrastructure and reduced bureaucracy, sustainable agricultural health, food safety systems, and food and nutrition security; and protected consumers, competitive economic spaces, and high-quality management systems. In 2019, the ministry will focus on increased domestic production for agro-processing and export production through strategic investment options; affordable financing; production incentives; infrastructure development such as farm road rehabilitation, irrigation systems and agro-processing hubs across the island; and R&D support. Second, we want to implement national trade facilitation and national quality infrastructure programs and increase factory space for MSME production to strengthen the ministry's incubator programs.