Letters to the Editor

Let's help ourselves...first

Monday, December 11, 2017

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Dear Editor,

I read the Jamaica Observer's Sunday Finance lead story written by Karena Bennett and titled 'Farmers call on IMF for help' and in this article it is noted that Jamaica's chicken industry, and the nation itself, has benefited from an import regime that has been implemented so as to make Jamaica self-sufficient in this meat. I feel that the same should be considered for the cattle industry, ie both dairy and beef.

Traditionally, vast swathes of Jamaica's farmland were farmed with coconut trees, and cattle allowed to grazed below. This dual type production made good money for the farmers in that they gained revenue from both coconuts and cattle.

In driving around Jamaica nowadays, much of what used to be vast coconut plantations, and grazed by cattle, is now standing bush, not even timber has been planted.

As I see it, the reason that this has occurred is twofold:

Firstly, the political powers have allowed cheap offal and trimmings to be imported without constraint into Jamaica. This has resulted in the nation's cattle farmers selling animals at a discount, even in relation to international wholesale markets. For example, live feeder cattle trade on the Chicago Board of Trade exchange in America for about US$1.50 per pound, which translates to about J$190 per pound, while in Jamaica feeder cattle are being sold for about J$170 per pound. This means the Jamaican farmer, who has to pay for import duty on supplies such as barbed wire, nail, feed supplements, minerals, medicines, and the like gets about 11 per cent discounted price in relation to a North American producer. Clearly the political leaders need to rectify this problem before they expect the nation's farmers to heavily invest in cattle production for the local market.

Secondly, Jamaica's agricultural industry suffers from a complete lack of the rule of law. This lawlessness has resulted in the nation having many people who do not have productive work but rove around and do plenty of reaping of other people's produce, even of cattle. The solution to this problem is explained in the 'Good Book'. which warns, “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people's hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11) This also explains why our landowners have not planted vast swathes of valuable timber on these lands that used to be highly productive in the form of copra and cattle, as the roving bands may very well appear uninvited with chainsaws to harvest the valuable timber that others have planted and are waiting to mature.

John Wildish

johndwildish@gmail.com

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