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Some 250 hectares (600 acres) of state land at Nonsuch in St. Mary have been identified for the development of an orchard farm.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Central St. Mary, Dr. Morais Guy, who made the disclosure during his contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in Gordon House yesterday, said that dialogue was ongoing with the Commissioner of Lands to lease the land. The Land and Environment Ministry has already given approval for the project, he informed.
Dr. Guy told the House that collaboration has been initiated between community farming leaders in the constituency and the private sector for the lease and development of the land, which would serve as a model farm.
He informed that consultations have been held with farmers, who were in support of the initiative, while pointing out that the project would have tremendous benefit for the parish.
Meanwhile, the Central St. Mary MP has called on the Agriculture Ministry to provide increased technical assistance to support farming in the parish.
He said that while agriculture would not be the panacea for the economic development of the parish, it stood to play a significant role if sufficiently supported. He argued, that with St. Mary already producing over 40,000 tonnes of produce per year for the last few years, there was potential for better performance.
He also pointed to the need for the services of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to be augmented, to provide additional extension officers to assist farmers.
The parish of St. Mary is predominantly agriculture driven, with significant economic activity in the industry despite the effects of Hurricane Ivan, Dr. Guy stated.
Turning to cocoa production, Dr. Guy said the parish was yet to fully benefit from the Cocoa Rehabilitation Project, which was launched by the Cocoa Industry Board a year ago.
He noted that despite the parish being a superb cocoa growing area, in fact, one of the best in the country, it was still to realize the full potential of the crop.
He appealed to the Cocoa Industry Board and the government to aggressively pursue the farmer education process, provide input assistance, rehabilitate existing fields and develop new fields, to support the cocoa industry. “Now is the time to inject more funds into the industry to move it once again,” he stated.