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  • Contracts amounting to $620 million are to go before Cabinet for its approval, to provide for the installation of critical infrastructure in the agro parks across the island.
  • The funds will be spent on installing drainage, roads and a packing house in New Forest/Duff House, among other things.
  • Two years into its implementation, the Government’s flagship agro parks initiative is yielding success.

Contracts amounting to $620 million are to go before Cabinet for its approval, to provide for the installation of critical infrastructure in the agro parks across the island.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the funds will be spent on installing drainage, roads and a packing house in New Forest/Duff House; a comprehensive irrigation scheme to service over 1,214 hectares (3,000 acres) of land in Spring Plain and Ebony Park, as well as drainage works, roadways, drainage and a packing house in Yallahs.

“When this infrastructure would have been installed, there will be a massive increase in production,” Mr. Clarke said.

The Minister was making his contribution to the 2014/15 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on April 23.

Two years into its implementation, the Government’s flagship agro parks initiative is yielding success, having realized $36.3 million in earnings and employing more than 1,000 persons.

It is projected to realize foreign exchange savings of some $4 billion, and provide employment for about 5,000 persons, when fully implemented.

Scheduled for completion in 2015, the project aims to modernize Jamaica’s agricultural sector; contribute to reducing the island’s almost US$1 billion food import bill, while increasing exports and creating jobs.

The Minister also informed that as part of measures to attract young people into farming, 20 young people have been allocated five acres of land each in the Ebony Park Agro-Park, in Clarendon.

“We have further secured from the private sector and the University of the West Indies (UWI), commitments to provide working capital to these young entrepreneurs, who will be producing various crops under secured marketing arrangements. They will commence production as soon as we roll out the irrigation infrastructure this year in the earmarked section of Ebony Park,” Mr. Clarke said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has sought to engage young people in its Irish Potato Programme.

To this end, some 40 hectares (100 acres) have been reserved for women and youth involving some 176 beneficiaries, including 59 males under 39 years, 64 females under 35 years, and 53 females over 35 years.

“Under this programme, the Ministry, in partnership with a number of private sector entities, provided working capital support to undertake the full cost of land preparation, planting material and pesticides. So far, a quarter of the area has been reaped, yielding over 150 tonnes of Irish potato,” Mr. Clarke said.