In Mr Allan Rickards cane farmers found a powerful voice
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.