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Saturday, January 21, 2006 

Clarke Highlights Importance of Science and Technology in Sustaining Agriculture
by Jamaica Information Service

Posted: Jan 20, 2006 18:13 UTC

KINGSTON (JIS) - Agriculture has tremendous potential to provide employment, but there is need to understand the role of science and technology in sustaining development of the sector."What has to be understood.is that science and technology has to play an expanding role, and what is also critical is how agriculture attracts capital [investment], because people cannot operate with the level of interest rate being asked by the commercial banks," Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke told JIS News.

The Minister was responding to comments made in a poll late last year, which called for a focus on agriculture to create more jobs. The poll showed that Jamaicans believed that more jobs could be created if the Government focused more on the agricultural sector.Expanding on the link between high interest rates and how it consumed cash flow and disrupted production, Minister Clarke added: "Even to modernize the sector, cash inflow is needed to deal with greenhouse cultivation, hydroponics, the new irrigation system (centre pivot system). it's not cheap.

Inputs such as fertilizers and other chemicals have gone up and so has the price of fuel the tractors use".Mr. Clarke pointed out that some areas in agriculture were ready for expansion to create more jobs. "What we need to do is look at those products we [Jamaica] have a competitive edge in and go after them, such as pepper production and condiments - escallion, herbs, spices," he said.However, the Minister argued that agricultural expansion might still not solve unemployment because, "you will find some men and women who will not get involved in agriculture, because agriculture has been stigmatized for too long".

Mr. Clarke said he believed that the utilization of modern technology in the sector would attract more people.The Minister said that in spite of the constraints facing the sector, such as hurricanes and droughts, "we are making strides".

He commended those international agencies which continue to assist Jamaica's agriculture, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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