In Mr Al­lan Rickards cane farm­ers found a pow­er­ful voice

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - EDITORIAL -

AL­LAN Rickards, vet­eran jour­nal­ist, agri­cul­tur­al­ist and ad­vo­cate who died last week at the age of 79, is likely to be most re­mem­bered for his ten­ure as chair­man of the All-is­land Ja­maica Cane Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (AIJCFA) for more than a decade.

The as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sents farm­ers pro­duc­ing sugar cane and reg­is­tered with the Sugar In­dus­try Author­ity. It is tasked to pro­mote, fos­ter and en­cour­age the grow­ing of cane by farm­ers and the or­derly and proper de­liv­ery to fac­to­ries.

The AIJCFA ad­vo­cates for the wel­fare of cane farm­ers to the Gov­ern­ment and set­tles dis­putes which may arise be­tween cane farm­ers and sugar fac­to­ries. Mr Rickards’ name be­came syn­ony­mous with the as­so­ci­a­tion be­cause of his tire­less ef­forts.

Be­fore that, he worked as a jour­nal­ist at the then Ja­maica Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (JBC) and at the Ja­maica In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice (JIS), and while there he was as­signed as press of­fi­cer to Mr P J Pat­ter­son when he was min­is­ter of in­dus­try, trade and tourism. He also did pub­lic re­la­tions for the Sugar In­dus­try Author­ity.

When he moved be­yond re­port­ing the news he of­ten­times be­came the news, as a vig­or­ous and con­sis­tent ad­vo­cate for the rights and wel­fare of cane farm­ers for over 40 years. He hosted, for sev­eral years, a pro­gramme on Power 106 FM fo­cused on the sugar cane in­dus­try.

One of his re­cent achieve­ments was Trelawny Pride, an or­gan­i­sa­tion cre­ated to help cane farm­ers dis­lo­cated by the clo­sure of the Long Pond sugar fac­tory. Mr Rickards ne­go­ti­ated the lease of 3,600 acres of land ad­join­ing the sugar fac­tory on their be­half.

He was also a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors of the Sugar In­dus­try Author­ity and was a par­tic­i­pant in the Sugar As­so­ci­a­tion of the Caribbean (SAC) of sugar pro­duc­ers in Ja­maica, Guyana, Belize and Bar­ba­dos.

He took his ad­vo­cacy into the po­lit­i­cal arena where he served for many years as a mem­ber of the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil of the Peo­ple’s na­tional Party (PNP). This did not pre­vent him from re­lent­lessly cas­ti­gat­ing suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments for their ne­glect of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, and he was es­pe­cially crit­i­cal of his own party.

His style was one that was seen as too con­fronta­tional and some be­lieved him to dis­agree­able. But whether they agreed or dis­agreed with him, they recog­nised his com­mit­ment, ideas and pas­sion. He was a force­ful voice for the sugar in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture in gen­eral, al­ways fight­ing for an oft-over­looked sec­tor.

He pressed for the recog­ni­tion that it was not a sugar in­dus­try but a sugar cane in­dus­try con­tribut­ing to sugar, rum, mo­lasses and en­ergy. His ar­gu­ments were bol­stered by the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing him­self a cane farmer in Trelawny.

We ex­tend con­do­lence to his wife Claudette, his chil­dren and other mem­bers of his fam­ily, his friends and col­leagues. They can take pride and com­fort in knowl­edge that he made a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to his beloved Ja­maica and that his ad­vo­cacy and deeds touched the lives of many all over Ja­maica.

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