Arscott in an interview, says he is a "bona fide" dairy farmer, who is a member of the Rhymesfield Dairy Development Cooperative, to which assistance was made available by the dairy board.
"I never requested anything. I am a member of a dairy cooperative and a legitimate dairy farmer. Other farmers in the area get the same thing," Arscott said yesterday.
The assistance was given under the Jamaica Dairy Board Revitalization Programme, headed by Mr. Byron Lawrence. It is which is aimed at revitalizing Jamaica’s diary sector and increasing milk production.
It is part of a national drive by the JDDB to enhance food security, protect economic livelihood, and promote rural development.
Under this programme, registered dairy farmers are assisted in various ways, including the planting of Mombassa grass to provide fodder for dairy cattle feed . The grass is said to be drought and pest resistant.
This and other programmes of the JDDB is funded from money collected from the payment of a cess collected by the Jamaica Dairy Development Board on each litre of milk produced by each dairy farmer.
The Jamaica Dairy Development Board wants to increase the level of milk production in Jamaica from the present 12 or so million litres annually to about twenty million litres by 2020.
The island’s milk production which was flourishing up to the late 1990 took a nose dive after 1992 when the World Bank required Jamaica to discontinue its tariff on imported milk powder as a condition for granting a loan.
Soon enough, Jamaica was flooded with imported, heavily-subsidized powdered milk which saw the destruction of the local dairy industry and weakened the long-term food security of Jamaica.
Former CEO of the JDDB Board Hugh Graham, at the launch of a recent campaign aimed at promoting the drinking of “real milk” in Jamaica, noted that the island was currently spending US$52 million (J$6.2 billion) on the importation of milk and milk-based products annually.
He pointed out that importation of milk solids had led to a sharp and consistent decline in the annual production of local milk from 38.8 million litres in 1992 — except for the period 1996-1999 — to 12 million litres in 2013. Since then, production has varied between 12 million and 13 million litres in 2010, with 2014 and 2015 registering approximately 12 million litres each year.
Against this background, Graham said the JDDB had created a partnership with a number of companies including Seprod, Newport Fersan and the CB Group to boost dairy industry growth over the next 10 years, while reducing the food import bill, increasing national food security, increasing GDP and reducing unemployment.
Documents tabled yesterday in the House of Representatives by Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, showed that Arscott was among 38 companies and individuals, including Samuda, a horse breeder and beef cattle farmer, who received grass under the JDDB programme.
Samuda, who had been enveloped in controversy emanating from the Mombasa grass episode revealed by opposition spokesman Dayton Campbell last week, told parliamentarians that he had now paid the dairy board $546,000 to cover the cost of the services rendered at his farm in Knollis, St Catherine.
Campbell had accused Samuda of firing Hugh Graham, chief executive officer of the JDDB, over a disagreement relating to the granting of a licence to a company to import milk powder from Colombia for resale on the local market, as well as a fallout involving the planting of Mombasa grass on the minister's property.
Arscott described as "dishonest" and a "red herring" attempts by Samuda to point a finger at him as a beneficiary.
- Countries: Jamaica