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EDITORIAL: JACRA and Stakeholders Should Unite to Save our Crops

After some five years in the making, the government on new year’s day officially implemented the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Authority (JACRA), which is expected to strengthen the legislative framework to support sustainable development in agriculture, manufacturing, industry, and commerce. JACRA was established with the blessings of five ministers of agriculture, including Roger Clarke, Christopher Tufton, Robert Montague, Derrick Kellier and Karl Samuda under the direction of permanent secretary Donovan Stanberry. The authority replaces and merges the existing Coffee Industry Board, Cocoa Industry Board, the regulatory functions of the Coconut Industry Board and the Export Division of the ministry. These commodities have the potential to contribute up to 60 percent of the island’s export earnings and perhaps 40 percent of the farm jobs market.

The so-called traditional export crops — coffee, cocoa, coconut, ginger, pimento and other spices—have been around for decades and have contributed to the wealth creation of thousands of farmers and families. They have also been significant contributors to the island’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP). Taking on the responsibilities of five agencies, JACRA has taken on the formidable task of transforming and growing Jamaica’s traditional crops in an environment that is changing with tricky challenges but vast opportunities. We must preserve the legacy of coffee, cocoa, coconut, ginger and pimento on the international market because they are regarded as among the best products coming out of Jamaica.

However, many farmers, agriculturalists, and other stakeholders are not happy with aspects of the JACRA. Among the many criticisms, they argue “the JACRA Act did not embrace the modern environment changes which make aspects of acts obsolete.” In our opinion, most stakeholders are in support of JACRA, but they are very disappointed about aspect of the regulations, arguing that it was not “business friendly” and may become a deterrent to the very crops they were are seeking to promote.

However, we are optimistic that someone is listening to the farmers’ concern and are addressing the issues with the production and export of coffee, cocoa and coconut and spices at their lowest level of output, we cannot afford for JACRA to fail. But, JACRA cannot survive without a strong pool of farmers and agri-investors producing and trading the crops on a sustainable basis. On the other hand, farmers need a JACRA to create a fair and balanced environment for producers and traders.

As much as JACRA is needed to save our traditional crops, it will take a strong partnership with farmers and traders to get the job done. An environment of hostility and turfprotection will not work or benefit the agricultural sector. Therefore, farmers, government regulators and stakeholders organizations should unite to save our traditional commodities.

Patrick Mailand, Editor

Source: The Agriculturalist,

Samuda’s Inaction Threatens Viability Of Coconut, Cocoa – Struggle To Sell Cocoa Assets

The failure of Karl Samuda, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries to respond to a comprehensive business proposal he had requested from the Coconut Industry Board (CIB) could sound the death knell for the cocoa industry as well as derail plans to lay a solid groundwork for Jamaica to capitalize on the multi-billion dollar global demand for bottled coconut water and other value-added products.

“We are prepared to facilitate the expansion of the coconut industry to the fullest extent, no question about that, and we are prepared to work with them to ensure that by offering other facilities that accommodate their expansion. No question that we fully support the plan for expansion and development of the Coconut Industry Board and I really would not wish to have the slightest misinterpretation or misunderstanding about that,” the Minister told The Gleaner recently.

This was after admitting he was initiating court action to fight the board over ownership of its shares in Seprod which are valued at an estimated $4 billion.

The plan for development of an integrated processing facility at the 1,000-acre Water Valley property in St Mary would include the rehabilitation of cocoa trees on the land. The proposal includes acquisition of state-owned non-performing cocoa board assets such as the fermentary in St Mary, as well as property elsewhere, including the spices warehouse at Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston, where the cocoa warehouse is located.

Long-Term Development

This is because revitalisation of the cocoa sector is integral to the overall long-term development plans of the Coconut Industry Board which aims to develop a range of value-added products from both crops. Among the items on the drawing board is a ready-to-drink cocoa beverage infused with coconut milk.

Cocoa is among the commodities the government has been trying to offload in preparation for implementation of the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) which is yet to come into effect, despite what should have been a July 1, 2017 deadline. Coffee, coconut, pimento, ginger, nutmeg and pimento are among the commodities which will fall under the remit of the umbrella regulatory agency.

Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries spoke to the urgency of divesting assets of the commodity boards. It has been a struggle to sell the cocoa assets, he told The Gleaner.

“We have attempted to divest those assets and have not been successful so those assets will cease to operate once JACRA takes over and the process of trying to divest them will continue. They (workers) are likely to be affected either by re-assignment or if we can’t re-assign them they will have to be made redundant but it is not intended that the government will continue operating those assets or having any commercial role in the cocoa industry when JACRA becomes operational,” he said.

A Shocker

Representatives of the Coconut Industry Board were therefore shocked by Stanberry’s rejection of their bailout plan for cocoa, during a meeting they had initiated with Samuda in a bid to calm the escalating war of words between the parties.

“At that meeting it never come up about selling shares or anything. Him (Samuda) wanted some money and we say we will look and see how we could come up with some money in exchange for some assets that the Ministry has, which would have been the cocoa industry and its assets, along with the assets of the pimento and spices, along with the Cocoa Board warehouses and things at Marcus Garvey Drive,” director Granville Marsh told The Gleaner.

Negotiations were proceeding amicably until Stanberry’s interjection brought the talks to an abrupt end, according to Marsh.

“The permanent secretary said to us, that land is out of it, that location is out of it. So if that land is out then it doesn’t make sense for us to really take the rest as logistically we would need a warehouse near to wharf to facilitate the export of cocoa. So we returned to the board and called a meeting of the directors and put it to them. The directors outright said no, if we not getting that (Marcus Garvey Drive facility) we not going down that road,” he explained.

Downplayed Impact

However, Stanberry downplayed the impact of his words, the substance of which was well known to the directors, he insists.

“I told them that Marcus Garvey Drive is out of the business but I don’t know if that mash up anything and that has been said long years ago,” he told The Gleaner.

Meanwhile, on the issue of JACRA, the permanent secretary promised that the long overdue umbrella regulatory agency would be implemented very soon.

“The bill has been passed, the Act is in place but it is the regulations that give effect to the Act and there have been some delays with the regulations. But we have had significant movement in the last two weeks and expect the regulations to be out within a week or so because we have been working very closely with the CPC (Chief Parliamentary Counsel),” Stanberry said.


Source: Jamaica Gleaner,

Big Fines Attached To New Licensing Regime For Commercial Farms

Under the new law that consolidated agricultural commodities under a new body known as JACRA, growers who farm crops in “commercial quantities” will now have to be licensed, and those without permits may face up to five years in prison and fines ranging up to $5 million.

It’s a new element of the law, according to Dr Garnet Brown, consultant for organisational transformation at the Ministry of Investment, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries, who says it covers farmers of coffee, cocoa, coconuts, ginger and other regulated spices.

But one of those farmers believes the penalties are a massive overreach and could end up chilling business.

“In the first 25 pages, there are 10 sections where it wants to fine the farmers $3 million and/or imprison them for up for 12 months for breaches of this act,” said Roger Turner, managing director of Tulloch Estates Limited.

“Farmers will be fined a greater amount and imprisoned for a longer time than a thief, who steals these crops from a farmer,” the farmer noted.

Turner, who farms cocoa and coconuts, also sees the JACRA regime as being counter to free-market principles.

“It speaks to setting prices, quotas, and who can grow where, when and how. It breaches many international agreements,” he said.

“This legislation belittles and subjugates farmers, trying to force them to comply with antique rules that will [push] away overseas investors and cause current farmers to wilt. Much of this legislation contradicts current trade agreements,” he charged.

Commercial quantity is defined differently for individual crops under the law, but ranges in quantities of 25 kilogrammes to 400 kilogrammes.

Brown says the new licensing regime is meant to act as a check on agricultural theft, otherwise called praedial larceny, and will be used as an avenue to police product standards now that the State is exiting the commercial side of agriculture and leaving it private operators.

“You will need a licence if you are producing in commercial quantities,” said the consultant, adding, “Yes, it is new.”

Citing an example, he said the former law governing the cocoa trade was silent on quantities regarded as commercial or non-commercial, while the law that created the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, JACRA, defines commercial quantities as anything over 100 kilogrammes or 50 trees under cultivation.

For other crops covered by the JACRA Act, the quantities are defined as: 50 coffee trees, 25 kilogrammes of cherry coffee; 80 coconut trees, 8,000 coconuts; 1 hectare of ginger, 400 kilogrammes; 30 nutmeg trees, 300 kilogrammes; 50 pimento trees, 25 kilogrammes; and 1 hectare of turmeric, 300 kilogrammes.

JACRA also aims to regulate a category called ‘oil producing items’, including almond, avocado, castor bean, cocoa, groundnut, linseed, maize germs, nutmeg, oil palm, olives, palm kernel, rapeseed, safflower, sesame, shea nut, soya bean and sunflower seed.

JACRA is a consolidation of commodities boards that oversaw the cocoa, coffee coconut markets, as well as the export division of the agriculture ministry. Those boards previously had commercial functions, which are being divested, and JACRA will operate exclusively as a regulator and inspectorate.

The agency will launch by year end, assuming the regulations to guide its operations have been gazetted by then.

The licensing period is still undefined for growers, but the permit is to be renewed 90 days before expiry.

Unlicensed operators will face a fine of $3 million or one-year prison time, or both. For some offences, the recommended time in prison is five years under the JACRA law.

In granting licences to growers, JACRA will consider factors such as geographical location of the cultivation, bankruptcy, and conviction for fraud or other offences in the last three years. The same applies to companies, which will be a refused a licence if they are insolvent, or cannot pinpoint the geographical location where cultivation will occur.

Persons producing for themselves and their household at levels “too small for commercial significance” will not need a licence.

Misrepresenting the location of a farm carries a penalty of $3 million and/or three years’ imprisonment for the farmer. Companies will be fined $5 million for the same offence.

Aside from licensing, it will be JACRA’s job to set and police minimum standards for “quality” regarding cultivation, trade, export, import and distribution of agricultural commodities, storage, warehousing, hygiene, quality assurance, and more.

“The penalties are new and relate to the regulatory and licensing requirements. What we are really and truly trying to do is to protect the grower, especially coffee,” said Brown.

“You have some people who are trying to pass off ordinary coffee as Blue Mountain coffee; you have some unscrupulous people who have tried to pass off coffee on the international market as Blue Mountain coffee – we are now protecting it …,” the consultant said.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner,

Tax Coming For Imported Roasted Coffee Beans

Agriculture and Commerce Minister Karl Samuda says a tax will be imposed on imported roasted coffee beans as a means to cut importations and provide funding to local farmers.

Samuda made the announcement at his ministry this morning.

He disclosed that regulations governing the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) will facilitate the new tax.

Samuda said work is advancing on the regulations.

He argued all players in the sector have to play their part in keeping the local coffee sector buoyant.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture and Commerce Minister indicated that the government will be providing support to coffee farmers.

Samuda announced that $80 million will be channelled to the ministry’s productivity incentive programme.

Among other things, farmers will be provided with fertilisers, tools, and training.

Samuda said the government wants to help farmers increase their productivity so that they are better able to see positive returns.

The intervention comes as coffee farmers complained about the price at which they are being paid per box for coffee.


Source: Jamaica Gleaner,

Coconut Growers Seek Answer Today

Coconut farmers from across the island will be seeking clarification on the role of their new organisation, the Coconut Growers Industry Board, which is the successor entity to the Coconut Industry Board, whose regulatory functions have been ceded to the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA).

The JACRA is an umbrella organisation which now replaces individual crop commodity boards. Following Governor General Patrick Allen’s signature on March 14, JACRA will take over the functions of the Coffee Industry board, the regulatory function of the Cocoa Industry Board and the Coconut Industry Board, as well as the export division of the agriculture ministry, which deals with spices such as nutmeg and pimento.

For this reason, registered coconut growers are expected to turn out in large numbers for today’s annual general meeting at the Jamaica Conference Centre, where they will be given an update on how this fundamental change will affect them.

Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, offered some insight.

Licensing Regime

“JACRA will manage a licensing regime for the export of all those commodities, so people will have to satisfy certain conditions before they are issued licences to export. In the case of cocoa, right now, under the old Cocoa Board Act, only the Government could export cocoa. Government has removed itself from that now, so we set up a licensing regime for those people who want to export cocoa. They will have to meet criteria and standards and, as with the coffee board right now, where all exporters have to pass their coffee through the board to certify the standard, the same thing will happen for all the commodities, through JACRA,” he told The Gleaner.

Despite this, Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda has asked the Coconut Industry Board to continue to administer the affairs of the industry, at least, until JACRA is properly staffed. However, his refusal to facilitate repeal of the Coconut Industry Control Act, 1945, as well as the Coconut Industry Control Regulations, has left registered coconut growers confused about the future of their shares now valued at more than $4 billion, as well as the assets of the board.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner,