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Two contracts valued at $41. 2 million for the construction of housing solutions for sugar workers in  Westmoreland, were signed by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, in Savanna-la-mar, on  September 28.

Ground was also broken for the commencement of infrastructure works for both contracts, immediately following the signing.

Managing Director of Share-Con Limited, Clive Sterling, signed on behalf of his company for  one of the contracts  worth $29.2 million to do works at the Masemure Barracks relocation site, which will provide approximately 22 housing solutions for 32 persons.  Work begins immediately, and is to be completed by February 2013.

Meanwhile, General Manager  of D.R Foote Construction Company Limited, Phillip Foote, signed the second contract on behalf of his company, through which 11 housing units are to be provided for 19 persons at Barham Barracks relocation site. Work will be done at a cost of $12 million, and is scheduled for completion by December 2012.

In his address, the Minister  said the event is an indication of the Government's commitment towards providing affordable housing solutions for sugar workers.  He noted that  provisions have been made within this financial year, for the resettlement of some 876 residents of sugar estates across the country, and that some 400 housing solutions will be provided at  seven relocation sites in four sugar producing parishes.

"The estimated cost of this project is $1.4 billion  and the dwellings are to be provided at a rate of one building per family, including bathroom and kitchen facilities.  The size of a dwelling to be allocated will vary, based on the number of family members to be resettled, while each solution will comprise adequate land space for small-scale economic activities," he pointed out.

Mr. Clarke explained that the tenure of the beneficiaries will be freehold, with a five-year restriction placed on the sale or transfer of properties after resettlement.  He said that the relocation exercise is being supported by the European Union (EU).

Meanwhile, Head of Operations, EU Delegation, Mr. Jesus Orus Baguena, said the sugar industry is a vital part of  the Jamaican history, and has contributed to making the country what it is today.  He said that it continues to play a major role in the Jamaican economy, and could play an even more important role, not least of which is its potential to contribute to alternative energy sources.

"To thrive and expand, it is important that the sugar industry adapts to changing circumstances and demands, and the European Union is trying to play its part in ensuring that this happens," he said.

He said that some $17.5 billion has been earmarked for Jamaica by the EU through its package of support known as Accompanying Measures, which has been running from 2006 and will continue until 2015.  He pointed out that to date, approximately $8 billion of this amount has already been disbursed.