Farmers in the Hounslow area of St. Elizabeth, are to benefit from an 8,800 square foot post-harvest and packaging facility, with the signing of a lease agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and GraceKennedy Limited, today (September 9).
The private sector conglomerate will operate the $49 million Hounslow packaging house, which was constructed under the Improving Jamaica’s Agricultural Productivity Project, a collaboration of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Government.
Speaking at the signing, which took place at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road headquarters, in Kingston, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton described the facility as a possible “game changer,” in enabling a more stable agricultural sector.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (right), signs the lease agreement for GraceKennedy Limited to operate and manage the Hounslow Packaging House in St. Elizabeth, while Chief Executive Officer of GraceKennedy Foods, Erwin Burton (left) and Canadian High Commissioner, His Excellency Stephen Hallihan observe. The signing took place at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens headquarters, in Kingston, today (September 9).
“It is a catalyst and represents a first in many respects. It is the vision of the Ministry to create similar entities throughout the country, primarily driven by the market and by the management and resources of the private sector, with government being a facilitator,” he said.
Dr. Tufton noted that under the 15-year, $2.1 million per annum lease, GraceKennedy will equip and manage the facility, and contract farmers to produce, based on their expertise, as to what is required.
“It is a beneficial relationship in a number of respects. The Hounslow area is perhaps one of the most fertile areas in Jamaica and it has one of the largest irrigation infrastructure in the country (well over 3,000 acres of land). For all those reasons, there are several advantages to be gained,” he said.
The Minister said the government intends to develop the Hounslow area into the most modern agro-industrial park in the Caribbean, adding that within the next month or so, ground will be broken for a pepper mash facility, for which farmers will be contracted.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (right), greets Canadian High Commissioner, His Excellency Stephen Hallihan (centre), on his arrival at the signing for a lease agreement between the Ministry and GraceKennedy Limited, for the Hounslow Packaging House in St. Elizabeth. The signing was held at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens headquarters, in Kingston, today (September 9). At left is Chief Executive Officer of GraceKennedy Foods, Erwin Burton.
In addition, a training facility has been set up, primarily financed by the National Irrigation Commission, to train farmers in best practices. The Ministry is also working with the Sydney Pagon Agricultural School, in the parish, to have that institution upgraded, through collaboration with the University of Technology.
Dr. Tufton also noted that a breeding station for small ruminants is to be restored at Hounslow.
“What we are actually trying to do is create a cluster of activities. In addition to that, we are looking at livestock production, slaughtering and post harvest management, which will integrate and benefit from research and training, all the way through to primary production, value added production and through to market. Today’s signing with GraceKennedy will start that process in a very meaningful way,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of GraceKennedy Foods, Erwin Burton said the company believes that if agriculture is to be successful, and make a significant impact on the economy, a transformation must take place.
“A part of that transformation is technical, and another major part of it is stable markets. There is no doubt that this will be a viable project, and our main role in this will be to help to upgrade the farmers from a technical standpoint,” he said.
Mr. Burton pointed out that GraceKennedy would provide stable markets for farmers, with the majority of them contracted to the company.
“The good thing is that they will know how much we will take from them per week or per month, and they will also know at what price they will be selling their goods. Another good thing is that within 14 days, their money will be lodged to their account,” he noted.