Mon | Aug 10, 2020

JAS hit hard by Denbigh cancellation

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2020 | 12:16 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

This year’s cancellation of what would have been the 68th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon because of coronavirus restrictions has resulted in significant financial losses, the Jamaica’s main farming lobby has said.

The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) has painted a dismal picture of the fallout from the cancellation of the show, the staging of which usually coincides with the Independence weekend.

President of the JAS, Lenworth Fulton, estimates cumulative loss to the economy up to J$2 billion. He pointed to the revenue lost from promotional activities across print, TV, radio, and social-media platforms leading up to the show.

The lost opportunities include the showcase of new and innovative farming equipment, as well as technology transfer, sale of plants and animals, investments by telecommunications companies and financial institutions, the JAS president said.

“This is the place where local, as well as overseas, companies showcase their products, to include innovations in farming equipment, new drugs for treating with animal and plant diseases, as well as improving production and productivity,” he conceded.

Food is another big-ticket item at Denbigh, with companies such as GraceKennedy, LASCO, Jamaica Broilers, and Caribbean Broilers using the opportunity to launch and test new products. Then there is the local economy where vendors from usually enjoy a major boost from the Denbigh Show, offering secured parking, selling plants, jerked chicken and pork, drinks and so much more.

Meanwhile, the JAS now finds itself in dire straits, Fulton said.

“We would have suffered a net loss of about $40 million for the head office alone and the various parish associations of branch societies could be losing anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 each, money that they usually use to run their business for the next year,” said Fulton.

“The difficulty is that it places all our parish and national annual general meetings under extreme pressure because we don’t have the money to finance them as we usually would. Such is the impact that its cancellation has had on the national body, parish bodies, and the national economy,” he said.

Parish shows cancelled

The situation is made worse by the fact that all parish shows, with the exception of Trelawny (Hague), were cancelled. Farmers from St James, St Ann, St Mary, Hanover, Kingston, and St Andrew were denied the opportunity to showcase their crops and livestock in preparation for the national show. And with no farm queens selected at the parish level, the 2019 National Farm Queen Aniecea Wiggan will continue in the position until next year.

Meanwhile, state minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, is encouraging farmers not to be daunted by the COVID-19 setback.

“Not having Denbigh is definitely a loss to the sector this year, but the circumstances are understandable, and I don’t believe that the farmers are disheartened,” said Green.

“I think they will still go into the field and try to produce the highest-quality crops. One of the pluses of COVID-19 is that it has raised the profile of farming and agriculture because as the world shut down, people started to pay more attention to where they are going to get their food from.”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com