Newly elected President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, said that the organisation will work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to substantially reduce the country’s food import bill, which stood at nearly US$1 billion in 2011.
“We think that the fact that we have about 50 per cent of our arable land still idle, we can do a lot in certainly increasing productivity and production, so that we can reduce our imports,” he stated.
Senator Grant was speaking at Saturday’s (Aug. 4) opening of the 60th Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, where the JAS leadership of the 2012 to 2015 term was officially installed.
Senator Grant, along with First Vice President, Donald Berry, and Second Vice President, Ralston Johnson, who were elected during the JAS’ annual general meeting in July, were installed by outgoing President, Glendon Harris. Senator Grant previously served two terms as President between 2003 and 2009.
Mr. Harris, who served one three-year term in 2009, did not seek re-election by virtue of his elevation to the position of Mayor of Montego Bay and Chairman of the St. James Parish Council, during local government elections earlier this year.
In his brief remarks, Senator Grant gave the JAS leadership’s undertaking to work “doubly hard” to enhance the organisation’s outputs and by extension, the welfare of the nation’s over 200,000 farmers.
He said that in seeking to reposition the JAS, the management would, among other things, ensure that the Denbigh showground is “used on a more regular basis”, adding that it “will be a part of the strategy to, certainly (more effectively) utilise the assets of the JAS".
"So, as we start this journey, I want to say we are ready to continue that transformation. We are ready for the job and we humbly accept it," Senator Grant affirmed.
In his final address as JAS President, Mr. Harris thanked all the stakeholders for their support during his tenure. He said he decided not to seek re-election because “I would want to ensure that the farmers of Jamaica are fully led by a team that can devote the time and energy. But most of all, the quality leadership that the farmers of Jamaica so rightfully deserve”.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, who delivered the keynote address, invited the JAS and other agricultural sector stakeholders to engage the Ministry in dialogue, which would serve to advance the industry.