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As the government of Jamaica continues its thrust to provide adequate water supplies for all farming communities across the island, a contract valued at $53.5 million has been awarded to M&M Jamaica Limited for the construction of an irrigation system in Pedro Plains, St. Elizabeth.
The contract was signed this morning (Nov. 24) at the Old Hope Road offices of the National Irrigation Commission (NIC).
According to Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan, work on the Pedro Plains Irrigation System should begin next January and would involve the installation of pumping stations, distribution pipelines, and on-farm irrigation systems to service a total project area of about 467 hectares. Completion of the irrigation project is projected for March of 2006.
Already, one well has been drilled at Beacon and three new wells in the Little Park area to facilitate the project.
Minister Buchanan explained that the Pedro Plains project should provide approximately 235 full time jobs, most of which will probably be accessed by farming households within the area.
He further indicated that the net increase in annual income to farm households, “assuming that they perform all the supervision, management, and half of the farm labour, will be $101.6 million”. In addition, he said, “the total annual value of the increase in production from the St. Elizabeth projects is projected at $398 million of which one-third is from potential export crops such as thyme, peppers, pumpkin and sweet potato.”
Besides the Pedro Plains project, two other irrigation projects have been identified under the government’s National Irrigation Development Plan (NIDP). These comprise the Seven Rivers project, located along the border of St. James and Hanover, for which the contract will be signed next March and the rehabilitation of the Hounslow system, for which the contract will be signed during the next financial year.
Collectively, the three projects are cited as “flagships” and are being funded through a joint partnership between the Jamaican Government and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), amounting to US$12 million (J$740 million), with the CBD, allotting US$8.1 million, and the government, US$3.84 million. The implementing arm of the fund is the NIDP. Minister Buchanan told the contract awardee, Managing Director of M&M Jamaica Limited, Donald Mullings that it was incumbent on his construction company to ensure that the work “is completed on time and within budget.”
Responding to the Minister’s charge, Mr. Mullings gave assurance that the work would be finished within the specified time, and would be of a high standard.
Minister Buchanan informed that a groundbreaking ceremony for the Pedro Plains irrigation project, which would signal the start of construction, would take place on January 26, 2005. Prime Minister P.J. Patterson is expected to attend the ceremony.

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