The Grass is Greener…

May 14th, 2017

I am starting to learn more about grass – specifically, Jamaican grass. I am not talking about the kind you smoke, of course! But the kind that dairy cattle eat. This matter is related to a particularly delicious kind of grass, I understand. It’s called Mombasa grass, and it’s gourmet dining for cattle.

This is Mombasa grass.

This is the highly nutritious Mombasa grass.

On CVM Television’s Live at Seven on Friday evening, we were discussing the issue of Agriculture Minister (and dairy farmer) Karl Samuda’s grass. I feel we did not address it adequately before moving on to the next topic. At least, I didn’t address it properly, at all.

So, the Opposition spokesman on Agriculture Dr. Dayton Campbell raised a couple of issues in Parliament last week. They may or may not be connected; but I am not satisfied that we yet know all the details. In any case, as a parliamentarian it’s his right to ask questions. Dr. Campbell alleges that Minister Samuda benefited from a 15-acre demonstration plot of Mombasa grass, grown on his personal property in Knollis, St Catherine, courtesy of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB).

I am not too comfortable with the way the agriculture portfolio is being handled at the moment. Several reports have led me to this conclusion. One by seasoned Gleaner reporter Christopher Serju referred to the Minister’s alleged high-handedness with coconut growers at a recent meeting. The other is the matter of the firing of the CEO of the JDDB on May 5; did this have something to do with the grass, and/or the award of an import license for milk powder from Colombia?  Some heavy lobbying has taken place in the past year, Dr. Campbell asserts. Minister Samuda says he did not personally fire the man; the Board did.

We know farming is a tough life, always has been. But our small farmers seem to face an almost endless series of challenges - such as the beet armyworm, in St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Gleaner)

We know farming is a tough life, always has been. But our small farmers seem to face an almost endless series of challenges – such as the beet armyworm, in St. Elizabeth. (Photo: Gleaner)

This is all juxtaposed with regular reports on television and elsewhere of small farmers, men and women, simply struggling. They stand in their fields, asking for help. They need support, guidance – and, for heaven’s sake, to be shown a way to make some real money; and who knows, perhaps in the future they might even employ some people. They are a part of the picture of rural decay, poverty and unemployment – which goes deeper than the plight of poor urban dwellers.

Perhaps the Minister is getting the different areas of his portfolio a little mixed up. Is the “super ministry” a little too much? Handling production, exports and imports and juggling them all at the same time? I was disturbed recently to find that Grace Coconut Milk Powder is a “product of Malaysia.” When I queried this on Twitter I learned that in fact coconut production has been in decline for years. Now there’s great demand, as coconut products are very fashionable and en vogue globally – but alas, we are not able to supply those lucrative markets. Coconut farmers have never recovered from the yellowing disease, which was at least partly caused by poor agricultural practices. Praedial larceny remains a factor (despite reports that it is on the decline). So some of the jelly coconuts we enjoy on the street (which seems to be about the only use for our coconuts) may well be stolen goods. The coconut industry is in decline, and what are we doing about it? A cess.

Please stop shouting, Minister Samuda. I'd like to think our politics has gone beyond this kind of posturing. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

Please stop shouting, Minister Samuda. I’d like to think our politics has gone beyond this kind of posturing. (Photo: Ian Allen/Gleaner)

It does not help that Minister Samuda blusters. His tone does not sit right with me. He has a tendency to sound bullying. He speaks too loud. He talks about “mischief” being made by the Opposition. No, don’t blame the Opposition please, Minister Samuda; they are simply doing their job.

Back to the grass. What I believe you should have done in hindsight, Minister Samuda, is simply refuse the yummy grass for your cattle, whether it was free of charge or not – you should have “said no to grass.” Why? To avoid any appearance of corruption or taking advantage of your position. Then you would not have to do all this defensive stuff now, which is such a waste of time and energy and, frankly speaking, is “not a good look.”

Let’s get on with building the agricultural sector, and supporting our rural producers.

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One Response to “The Grass is Greener…”

  1. […] Samuda’s grass: Here are my comments on the matter… Stay tuned. My personal concern for the agricultural sector lingers. The Contractor General […]