JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in placing focus on the Clarendon plains as it seeks to develop a policy to identify and put the country’s most arable lands into production.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, first revealed details of the agricultural land use policy last October.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Irrigation Commission, Stanley Rampair, speaking at the launch of the Arable Lands Irrigated and Growing for the Nation (ALIGN) project at Clarendon Park on Tuesday (Feb. 9), said that the Clarendon plains have the largest tract of available arable land in the country amounting to just over 100, 000 acres.
The irrigation district is 32,000 acres, with only 12,000 acres fully cultivated. About 20 per cent of the lands are owned by government and more than 40 per cent by private persons, with the remainder still to be accounted for.
“Clarendon has excellent soils; it has a wide variety of soils. All of these lands can do extensive cultivation meaning that we can plough them, harrow them, furrow them and bring them into production pretty quickly in a very efficient and intensive way,” Mr. Rampair said.
He said that the most suitable crops for the area include sugar cane, rice, corn, sorghum, sweet potato, banana, plantain, cotton, sorrel, and vegetables such as pepper, tomatoes and onions. Tree crops like mangoes, avocadoes, breadfruit and ackee are also ideal, in addition to poultry, pig and fish farming, shrimp and apiary culture, and pasture land.
Dr. Tufton, in the meantime, informed that work is underway on the agricultural land use policy. He said that the aim is to engage the lands that are most arable and “we must find a way to do it whether it is private or public.”
According to Dr. Tufton, Jamaica has approximately 2.7 million acres of land and approximately 17 per cent are arable lands, amounting to a little over 400,000 acres. The majority of these lands are located in the plains of St. Catherine, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland with small strips on the north coast.
“Some of those lands we have control over as government and those lands we are going to utilise in the best possible ways to get into production,” Dr. Tufton said. He noted however that a lot of these properties are privately owned “and we want to begin by using moral persuasion to encourage persons to engage the land. If you are not so inclined, then we want to .help you to find someone, who can engage the land through a leasing or sub-leasing arrangement.”
As part of the initiative, the Government’s land portfolio is being reviewed, including the leasing arrangements, with the aim of standardising the terms and conditions and linking the leases to productivity actively.
“So, if you lease the land you must have a business plan. We will help you with the business plan. (which will) outline what you are going to do with the land and it must have a time frame. It cannot be for an indefinite period and there should be a clause for termination of the lease if you do not carry through on the commitments that you have made,” Dr. Tufton explained.
He informed that the committee undertaking the review has almost completed its work.

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