Lipton Matthew’s Letter to the Editor,
The Jamaica Observer
In this age of rapid globalisation, states that are not internationally competitive will not reap significant economic benefits. Like most aspects of the economy Jamaica agricultural sector’s output has been dismal. The underlying reason for its substandard performance is a lack of modernization.
Since Jamaica is a participant in the global economy, we can no longer rely on outdated measures, like import restrictions or tariffs, these policies will only result in shortages and higher prices for consumers.
Many people refuse to admit it, but the problem is not that Jamaica imports too much, but that the agricultural sector is not competitive; hence we lack the productive capacity to replace imports. If Jamaica wants to remain relevant globally, then a greater level of research and innovation should be applied to the sector.
As one commentator recently opined: “The region cannot achieve its aspirations and goals unless agriculture plays its role, and without proper research, we will not be able to do so. And that is why we need to get off where we are and address the issue.”
Even in developing countries, governments are adopting a business approach to agriculture, and Jamaica should not do differently. It is not economically wise to subsidize failing farmers who may never alter archaic farming techniques, since more than 70 per cent of Jamaica’s farmers are over 50. Agriculture is not attractive to young people because it’s not innovative and its economic rewards are low. If the Government wants to save a failing sector, then funds should be deployed to more productive projects.
For example, Australia recently launched the Food Futures Flagship that aims to develop frontier science and technologies with the potential to transform the agri-food sector and apply these technologies to Australia’s largest and fastest agri-food industries, while India has created innovative clusters.
We use large sums of aid to finance failing crops, this money could be used to build a research campus for agricultural research. Some of us can continue to bemoan the import bill, but unless Jamaica becomes more competitive the problems will remain. Banning imported products like Irish potato will not solve our problems, because countries with lower barriers to trade usually do better than states with protectionist policies. Agriculture needs a scientific revolution, not the statist policies being pursued by this Administration.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Jamaican Conservative Capitalist Teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org