Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, says he will be moving to ensure that Jamaica is not left behind in the growing global medical cannabis industry.
He noted that while Jamaica has only decriminalized the use of up to two ounces of marijuana and issued a few licenses for production and processing, the product is now legal in Canada, and 31 states in the United States have been producing and using it for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Mr. Shaw said the country needs to move quickly to take advantage of opportunities in the growing of cannabis and manufacture of products.
He informed that he is working with the Ministry of Health and the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) “to move faster and more aggressively to get up to the level of world competition”.
“Time is not on our side,” he added.
Mr. Shaw was addressing an Agricultural Technology Symposium under the theme ‘Sustained Growth in the Agriculture Sector with Science and Technology Engineering’ held at Isratech Jamaica Limited Group of Companies in Kendal, Manchester, on June 21.
The event involved collaboration with the Ministry and the Jamaica Institute of Engineers. It provided information on climate-smart practices and innovations as part of measures to build resilience in the agriculture sector.
Minister Shaw told the participants, which included farmers, that agriculture is a key sector in enabling Jamaica to achieve sustained, high levels of economic growth.
He noted that the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has improved, moving from 6.6 per cent in 2015 to 7.3 per cent in 2017.
Minister Shaw said that focus is being placed on research and development in order to transform the industry.
It is for this reason, he said, that the Ministry, last year, began the redevelopment of the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine through an $800-million project.
“We have continued with the rehabilitation work this financial year with an allocation of $300 million for the upgrading of the piggery unit to First-World standard, which will allow us to produce genetic material for high-quality pigs,” he indicated.
“The laboratories will be upgraded and the road network, farm buildings, water supply, pasture, greenhouses, field and post-harvest facilities will also be done,” he added.
Mr. Shaw said the push to grow the sector also involves an aggressive youth-in-agriculture program, rationalizing idle lands, and looking to markets within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Meanwhile, Minister without Portfolio, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, said research is critical for the agriculture sector because the existing culture of the farmers has to change.
He said traceability is important because “the day is fast approaching when all exported and imported goods will have to be traced back to the place of origin in order to determine how it was treated as well as the pesticides and fertilizers used”.
“Many farmers will find that they might not be able to export their crops based on what was used to fertilize it,” he pointed out.
Minister Hutchinson noted that even the water used for irrigation could militate against the eligibility of crops for export, so entities like the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) will now have to move quickly to disseminate educational material to farmers.