Speaking in the Sectoral debate in the House of Representatives yesterday, Mr. Wright criticized the Andrew Holness government for its lack of focus and priority in building- out the irrigation infrastructure over the past years, which has resulted in declining yields and increasing the food import bill.
Mr. Wright said the major obstacle to growth in the sector is the government’s continued failure to manage irrigated lands, especially in the period of drought. Inaction on a number of proposed and approved irrigation projects underscores the lack of interest and will to make the sector viable for farmers and consumers alike.
“The provision of irrigation is one way of reducing the unpredictable nature of production in the agricultural sector. Under this government we have seen the reduction of irrigated areas, falling to 8,747 hectares despite major expenditure on Essex Valley. What is equally worrying is that although studies have been approved by this Parliament for the Pedro Plains Irrigation System and the South St Catherine and Clarendon Agricultural Development projects we see little or no activity,’ Mr. Wright pointed out.
The Shadow Minister said the Holness government has demonstrated a reluctance to support the island’s farmers and has diminished the importance of food production by removing agriculture from some of the most arable and properly irrigated land in the country.
“The Bernard Lodge farmers were disgracefully removed from some of the most fertile soils that are decked out with irrigation infrastructure valuing over a $1 billion dollars. The SCJ Holdings was unleashed on these farmers, ravaging their livelihoods and grudgingly providing a space with no irrigation infrastructure,” Mr. Wright charged.
The Shadow Minister said while the Opposition is not against housing, agriculture and the preservation of the island’s arable lands for the future food security of our country remain a priority.
“The policies employed by this administration equates to the government having its knee on these farmers’ necks and they are bawling out, ‘We can’t breathe!’” Mr. Wright said.
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