Agriculture Minister wooing Jamaica’s capital market to invest in sector
Jamaica’s capital market is being encourage to invest in the local agricultural sector with the country’s Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Pearnel Charles Jr indicating that the sector is a goldmine just waiting to be fully exploited.
Charles admitted that the sector is under exploited while pointing to the many untapped opportunities that are existing. Addressing the Jamaica Stock Exchange 18th Regional Investment and Capital Markets Conference yesterday (January 25), Charles made an impassioned plea for investments in the sector with the promise of reasonable returns on investment.
He told the audience of mostly bankers and financiers that now is the best time to invest in agriculture.
According to him, “if you are looking for the future, the best investment now is certainly in the post-harvest capacity. If you are interested in putting up facilities; warehouse and cold storage facilities; you cannot lose”.
He pointed to the need for a processing plant for banana chips and purees, for example, where the demand is great for those products, noting that Jamaica has carved out a world renowned brand for those agricultural produce.
“So, if I was somebody seeking to invest, I would consider the facilities and I would consider greatly looking on co-operatives that can provide me with the consistency of products for me to make those niche products to go to China and otherwise,” Charles advised.
Vast potential in fisheries
The Agricultural and Fisheries Minister pointed to fisheries, where there is enormous untapped potential, stating “we have tuna that is swimming past us and going elsewhere and it just requires investment in equipment to capture those… . That’s one easy market. We also have sea urchins.”
He made the point that Jamaica doesn’t even have to build the market for these produce, as there already exists great global demand for these marine foods which are not being met.
The minister acknowledged that exploitation of fisheries has to be buttressed with preservation of the environment to make it sustainable.
Charles said the last two years have been a very challenging time with the pandemic, commending farmers and fishers for the fact that, since 2020, Jamaica has recorded the highest consecutive highest level of domestic crop growth the country has ever seen.
“Despite the challenges, we are producing. We are on the right path and the farmers to be commended,” Charles said admitting that there are glaring gap in the utilisation of the land for farming. He is encouraging large long term investments in agriculture for there to be the robust level of growth required in Jamaica highlighting that there needs to be better packaging of the agricultural sector to attract long term private capital.
Charles cited the need for de-risking the sector in order to make it more attractive for investment. He also spoke about bringing the sector into the technological age mentioning that a company has just bought a number of drones to bring efficiency in dispersing pesticides and herbicides on their farms.
The minister added that investments are coming in green house, as well as more environmentally friendly, technology being rolled out in Jamaica.
Asked about brain drain in agriculture, he conceded to the fact, saying there is hope in the great interest being seen in young female farmers coming to the fore, while observing a boom in interest by young farmers with a lot of them being women.