Four hundred vegetable farmers in the Duff House/New Forest area of Manchester are benefiting from improved access to irrigation for their farms.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, officially commissioned the irrigation system into service during a visit to the area last Thursday (May 11).
He said the farmers, who plant some 800 acres of crops, are major suppliers to the GraceKennedy packaging facility and the Walkerswood factory in St. Ann. “The farmers in the region are very productive,” he noted.
He urged the beneficiaries to pay their bills, so that the system can be kept running and farmers in other areas can benefit.
The Minister underscored the Administration’s commitment to increasing access of farmers to irrigation in order to boost the country’s agricultural output.
He said water is available in the plains of Clarendon and St. Catherine to bring another 70,000 acres of land into production.
Dr. Chang informed that work has been done to improve the canals in the Rio Cobre region, and efforts are ongoing in the Clarendon belt as well. “We are still looking for funds to irrigate the Pedro Plains area, where there are farmers who need water,” he indicated.
He said that an agreement has been signed with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to use funds from the Caribbean Infrastructure Fund to expand the Essex Valley system, which will serve another 2,000 acres of property.
The project is expected to start this year and the system will be powered by solar energy, thus reducing costs.
He informed that the Essex Valley project will include improvements to infrastructure such as roads and domestic water supply, and provide packaging and marketing support.
The commissioning took place during the final stop on the Minister’s tour of irrigated areas in St. Catherine, Clarendon and proposed well sites in St. Elizabeth.
Dr. Chang has been visiting sections of southern Manchester, Clarendon, central St. Catherine and western St. Thomas to assess needs, in keeping with a directive from Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, for the provision of adequate irrigation for farmers across the island.