KINGSTON — Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Robert Montague, on November 22 signed six contracts valued at some $289 million to carry out works on two irrigation systems, which will enable a total of 687 farmers to increase their production.
The irrigation systems are sited in Yallahs, St. Thomas, and New Forest/Duff House in Manchester.
The contracts, for the supply and installation of pipes, fittings, pumps, and pump houses, come under the US$21 million National Irrigation Development Project, which is jointly funded by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Today’s signing will result in the completion of the two systems, which will benefit 376 farmers on 400 hectares of lands in New Forest/Duff House, and 311 farmers on 188 hectares in Yallahs.
Minister Montague implored the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), the implementing agency for the projects, to ensure that the country receives value for money. “The NIC must ensure that the contractors bring quality equipment for use on these projects…I don’t want a situation where six months after the contractor is gone, the pumps don’t work,” he stated.
Mr. Montague also urged farmers to get involved, by “inspecting” the works when they are being carried out, as the systems are for their benefit.
He said the projects fit the vision which Prime Minister, the Hon. Andrew Holness has for Jamaica, to start an urban rural drift, and investing more in rural Jamaica.
In his remarks, IDB Country Representative, Ancile Brewster, said the project is critical for the profitability of agriculture.
“It is important that agriculture produce the things that the market demands, so that farmers can derive a much better price for their efforts. It means that with a better off farming community, with more robust economic groups in our rural communities, the backbone of Jamaica will be well-served. Farmers will then have the resources to invest in new technology, in expanding their systems,” he argued.
The Yallahs contracts has been awarded to Jamaica Drip Irrigation Limited in the sums of $51,274,897 and $39,086,892 million; and Bacchus Engineering Works Limited for $47,062,158 million.
The three contracts for New Forest/Duff House have been awarded to Jamaica Drip Irrigation at a total cost of $152 million.
Mr. Montague said the contractors were selected after a rigourous tender process, having met all the criteria.
Implementation for the Yallahs project is scheduled for mid-2012, and work on the New Forest/Duff House system is scheduled for the end of 2012.
The National Irrigation Development Project, which got underway in 2005, also includes upgrading of the Colbeck and St. Dorothy systems in St. Catherine, and the Essex Valley system in St. Elizabeth. The Colbeck system was commissioned into service earlier this year.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter