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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Industry , Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Audley Shaw says he will be moving to ensure that Jamaica is not left behind in the growing global medical cannabis industry.
He said that while Jamaica has only decriminalised the use of up to two ounces of marijuana and issued a few licences 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.
Jamaica, said Shaw, needs to move quickly to take advantage of opportunities in the growing of cannabis and manufacture of products.
He said he has been 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.
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, last week.
The event involved collaboration with the ministry and the Jamaica Institute of Engineers, and 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 has improved, moving from 6.6 per cent in 2015 to 7.3 per cent in 2017.
According to Shaw, focus is now 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.
Shaw said the push to grow the sector also involves an aggressive youth-in-agriculture programme, rationalising idle lands, and looking to markets within the Caribbean Community.
Meanwhile, minister without portfolio in the agriculture ministry, 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 fertilisers used”.
“Many farmers will find that they might not be able to export their crops based on what was used to fertilise 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 will now have to move quickly to disseminate educational material to farmers.