KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has expressed concern about reports of unrest in the agriculture sector, as farmers are said to be upset that the continued granting of import licences for agricultural produce is flooding the local market leading to glut and forcing many farmers out of business.
“It is understood that there is an exodus of pig farmers leaving the industry as local pork is displaced by cheap imports including major shipments of ham in the run-up to Christmas last year,” a news release from the party disclosed.
“Local processors of ham are said to still have large stockpiles of the product as increased production done in anticipation of a huge Christmas demand remain unsold in cold storage. As a result, the processors have reduced their purchase of pork from pig farmers, who are facing severe financial hardships as a result,” Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture Dayton Campbell said in a release.
The Opposition is also questioning the motive and rationale for the sudden firing of the entire board of the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) by the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda earlier this month.
It said that the ACB, which facilitates and regulates credit to the agriculture sector, is spearheading the strengthening of the People’s Cooperative Bank after irregularities were uncovered there two years ago.
The party said the ACB installed retired banker Rex James to oversee the restructuring of the PCB bank.
“It is strange that the Minister has claimed that the board was dismissed effective immediately because it is to be merged with the Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies when the Agricultural Credit Board Act has not been repealed and no formal proposals for the proposed merger have been presented,” the Opposition spokesperson noted.
Campbell is also calling on Samuda to state whether JC Hutchinson, minister without portfolio in the ministry, or the Cabinet was made aware of his intention and reasons for dissolving the Board.