The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is taking steps to regularise former sugar cane lands in Parnassus, Trelawny, which are occupied by informal settlers.
The move is in keeping with the Government’s drive to ensure that agricultural lands are used for farming and other developments.
Speaking to journalists during a tour of sections of Southern Trelawny on Friday (January 22), portfolio Minister, Hon. Floyd Green, explained that a portion of the 3,600-acre property, managed by the Sugar Companies of Jamaica (SCJ), was slated for development by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ).
“Unfortunately, they were not used and, as such, informal settlements have started. Today, I am taking a first-hand look at the situation so it can be determined how best the existing situation can be rectified,” he noted.
He said that the Ministry has begun talks with the HAJ to commence housing solutions as well as reserve areas for agriculture.
Minister Green pointed to the need to have a comprehensive plan in place that addresses the issue of informal settlements on agricultural lands in a seamless way.
“Part of what we’re doing on all the lands we have is that where there are small pockets of informal settlements on our prime agricultural lands, we are going have to say to those people ‘you’ll have to find other accommodations’ and we understand that we’ll have to make some provisions for some of those people,” he noted.
“So, we want the development to be completely comprehensive to take that into account, so that when relocation is to happen, it can happen seamlessly,” he added.
Minister Green said that greater effort will be made to leverage the number of agricultural lands that remain unused across the island, noting that the push is to put these properties into the hands of persons who are serious about production.
He said that former and current sugar cane farmers stand to benefit from the use of these parcels of land.
“We’ve also taken over 2,000 acres and provided it to the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers’ Association for them to sub-lease to former sugar cane farmers for them to put into active agricultural production,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Minister Green said that a partnership has been forged with the National Housing Trust (NHT) to acquire lands not suitable for housing development for agricultural use.
He informed that already, 1,300 acres of lands have been identified by the NHT “that is more ideal for agricultural development that the Ministry of Agriculture will be taking over”.