Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke has disclosed his intention to discuss with the principals of the Jamaica Producers Group (JPG), operators of St. Mary Banana Estate, how the Government can assist in enhancing its multi-million dollar expansion plans.
Mr. Clarke told JIS News that in a preliminary discussion he had impressed on the Chairman of the JPG, Charles Johnston the need for government and JPG representatives to have formal discussions in a collaborative effort, which would be beneficial to both parties.
“I can’t promise to give up anything but within the terms of facilitation the ministry will make sure that whatever is necessary to get the processes going to the extent of our own capabilities, we will do that and that’s a commitment that we’ve made,” the Minister stated.
Minister Clarke who participated in a tour of the Jamaica Producers Group facilities in St. Mary on April 19, stressed that Government was ready and willing to continue in the partnership that exists, as the level of diversification being projected by the Jamaica Producers Group would no doubt result in job creation in rural communities and significant benefits to the country.
“There are some little kinks to be worked out such as how we incorporate as many small farmers in the process, but the opportunity exists for them to expand as you grow.
Competition is and will continue to be the order of the day and so productivity must be at the centre of what you’re doing. You’re in the right direction and I’m here to go along with you,” he added.
Jamaica Producers Group currently has in production just over 1,000 acres of land. This includes close to 600 acres of banana; 20 acres of plantain; close to 10 acres of pineapple; 200 acres of coconuts; 40 acres of ackee ; 40 acres of mangoes; and some 150 acres in lease land for small farmer cash-crop production.
“The projection for pineapple is to move up to 70 acres which is six times the production in the next two years, we are now in the first phase of planting another 100 acres of new banana and phasing out the old plants with a new high-yielding variety. This will move the average capacity from 20 tonnes per acre to up to 30 tonnes per acre,” explained JPG’s General Manager for the farming division, Nadav Goren.
Meanwhile, Chairman of JPG, Charles Johnston noted that the planned expansion would not only improve the group’s bottom line but would provide greater employment opportunities for Jamaicans ranging from the rural farmers to the urban marketer.
“We need to get more productivity from the same acreage and put in more acreage for the same amount of overheads and we’ll become more profitable, and we’re moving in that direction,” he noted.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO