There has been much discussion surrounding the importation of labour to source skilled workers in industries such as construction to fill the increasing shortage in Jamaica. Complaints from stakeholders have now ignited discussion regarding importing labour from overseas for the local agriculture sector as farmers struggle to find local farm workers.
The concept of leaving one’s native country to work abroad is no strange occurrence to Jamaicans, with thousands of citizens travelling to North America each year under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme. However, local farmers are having a far more difficult time attracting new workers to the agriculture sector.
Winston Simpson, the head of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), recently disclosed that current labour shortages for local farms have reached a critical tipping point. Despite the fact that their pay is guaranteed, Simpson said farms cannot get anyone to work and highlighted that the terrain of some farms cannot be mechanised.
Simpson also disclosed that the average local farm worker is paid $3,500 daily, while the cost of their lunches and transportation is provided separately. Contrary to the ongoing discussion labelling the importation of labour as a solution, the head of the Jamaica Agriculture Society, Lenworth Fulton, has expressed that such a strategy would not work due to the current state of the agriculture sector.
While Fulton acknowledged that the agriculture sector needed labourers, he questioned what the imported workers would be paid and where they would be housed if brought to Jamaica. Fulton added that there were improvements needed to modernise local farms and highlighted the need for better government monetary assistance to aid the farmers.
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