JAS turns focus to expansion of business plan

FULTON…as we move forward, what people can therefore expect to see is a new JAS…one that will become more involved in business

US the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) continues to await changes across its entire operation in the coming months, a revitalized entity propelled by an expanded business plan is being cited by its current leadership among the measures set to take root.

JAS President Lenworth Fulton, speaking at a recent time Jamaica Observer Business Forum, said that with the entity now undergoing a transition, this will see it in the near future emerging as a new body powered by refreshed leadership supported by additional sources of funding.

“One of the immediate transitional outputs is a new organogram [organisational structure] and business plan which we are now developing. As soon as we have both ready, we will see how best we can get things moving,” he told journalists.

“As we move forward, what people can therefore expect to see is a new JAS…one that will become more involved in business — currently most of our officers are involved in project work and I don’t think that is the right fit for the JAS at this time, as this is an overlap with RADA extension duties and we want to change that. I might not be there to lead the organization or the coming changes, but we are starting to put the plans in place,” Fulton stated.

“In addition to our flagship Denbigh agricultural show which brings in about $15-20 million in profits, with the new JAS we want to operate more farm stores and to engage in equipment sales including tractors and other things as we look to get the organization involved in more business-related activities,” he said in highlighting some of the plans.

The JAS, which currently earns a portion of its income from the staging of agricultural shows and a number of commercial properties it owns, is currently provided with an annual subvention of approximately $80 million by government, most of which it uses to pay staff.

Quizzed then about how it plans to fund activities under its expanded business plan, Fulton said the intention is for the entity to, in addition to the revenues it earns, also tap into the vast land resources it possesses, much of which he said could be used as collateral to secure additional funding.

“We have significant value in land, our Denbigh showground alone is 52 acres of land and aside from that, we have lands all over Jamaica and we plan to leverage some of this to get loans,” he stated.

According to data from an annual report last published by the JAS in 2019, total revenues for the organization amounted to $117.7 million while its asset base grew to just under $575 million, up from $529 million in the previous year.

The JAS, having also previously suggested the possible launch of an initial public offering (IPO), said that too remains on the cards, especially as it moves to advance other objectives under its growth plan. While there are talks of divesting the entity, much of these, the president, however, said, cannot be acted upon until the new executive is formed.

The nearly 130-year-old operation, which in recent times has been plagued by a series of organizational challenges, will choose new leadership by April this year, after the elections were postponed.

Fulton, having served in the capacity of president since 2018 and now bedeviled by illness, has already indicated that he will not be seeking re-election at that time.

“Within the next 24 months, we will kick off the new JAS based on the pace of the transition which is now being controlled by the ministries of finance and agriculture,” he, however, said in response to queries around a possible timeline on when the proposed changes could begin to materialise.

The JAS, an umbrella organization for farmers, is an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture which through its mandate not only seeks to improve the quality of life for its stakeholders, but to also promote agriculture through sustainable and profitable enterprises while striving to achieve financial viability .