President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, is attributing the recent growth in the Jamaican economy to the performance of the agricultural sector. Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on July 1, Senator Grant noted that the agricultural sector continues to play a significant role in helping the country to successfully pass quarterly performance tests under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. He said the nation’s farmers should therefore be celebrated for this stellar contribution to the growth in the economy. “The JAS will not go quiet in saying to the farmers that reside in the rural communities, that Jamaica’s economy is turning the corner because of the contribution of our farmers,” Senator Grant insisted. He said that the 2015 Denbigh Show will present a platform for further economic growth in the sector, as it observes the theme: ‘Eat what we grow and grow what we eat – Making agriculture sustainable’. “We are presenting a platform that says – the key to Jamaica’s economic revival and economic independence is through the agricultural sector,” he added. The President said one of the main indicators of strong performance by the sector can be seen in the ‘eat what we grow’ campaign, which has been working well and has led to significant reductions in the country’s import bill. “Our imports were reduced by US$50 million in 2014 when compared to 2013. That is tremendous progress,” Senator Grant said. He noted that the success of the campaign also shows that more people are eating local food, and the farmers are producing more crops for local consumption. “When we launched the ‘eat what we grow’ campaign in 2003, our domestic crop production was 491,000 metric tonnes; at the end of 2013 it was 615,917 metric tonnes, that is a growth rate of 25 per cent over the 10 years,” Senator Grant added. He said that the severe drought conditions last year had a tremendous impact on the sector, but said with the level of support provided through various Government Ministries and Agencies, the agricultural sector will record growth in 2015. “Our production last year fell by about 59,000 tonnes, a decrease of about five per cent over 2013, mainly due to the drought that we had in the third quarter, which affected 18,000 farmers and cost the sector $1 billion,” Senator Grant said.