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JIS News

Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Limited (WWCF) in St. Ann is now benefiting from the use of new equipment valued at J$6.5 million, which has been donated by the European Union (EU), under an initiative aimed at creating income-earning opportunities for local farming communities.
The equipment, which included a stand-by plant and freezer with chill room, were officially handed over to the WWCF by Minister of Agriculture and Land, Roger Clarke and Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Jamaica, Ambassador Gerd Jarchow.
“Through the Eastern Jamaica Agriculture Support Project (EJASP) which ended in December 2005, the EU provided equipment valued at J$6.5 million to Walkerswood Caribbean in exchange for a commitment from the company to enter into contractual agreements with a total of 150 farmers to produce a variety of crops including pepper, escallion and spices in the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary and Portland,” Minister Roger Clarke, said. He noted that the agreement was made in order to meet the company’s increased agricultural demand.
Mr. Clarke was speaking at the official handing over ceremony, which was held at Walkerswood, in St. Ann on Tuesday, April 11.
He said the project, which involved the EU, WWCF and 13 farmers’ groups, represented the kind of collaboration, which was essential if agriculture was to become a true engine of economic growth and development.
“The 13 farmers’ groups each operating on an average of less than a quarter acre of land produced some 26,000 pounds of pepper, valued at more than half a million dollars between August 2005 and the present,” he said, adding that the agreement between the EU and Walkerswood guaranteed a market for the produce.
The Agriculture Minister informed that the EU had also provided funding in the sum of J$4.2 million for the establishment of a pre-processing facility at Spring Gardens in Portland in order to reduce transportation costs for farmers in Portland, who would no longer have to journey to Walkerswood.
“This processing facility will be managed by Walkerswood Caribbean Foods and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in the spirit of partnering,” he informed, adding, “if we can replicate this arrangement throughout the entire country then we will see agriculture moving in a substantial way”.
He thanked the EU for its continued support and congratulated Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Limited for achievements in food processing.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Gerd Jarchow said the EJASP was an example of the European Commission’s longstanding commitment to poverty alleviation and development in Jamaica.
“For five years, since its inception in the year 2000 it constantly supported the farmers of eastern Jamaica in their efforts to strengthening the production and improving the market for their cash crops,” he said. Mr. Jarchow added that the lessons learnt from EJASP had not been forgotten but were currently being incorporated into the design by the Ministry of Agriculture for a new ‘rural diversification’ component of the EU Banana Support Programme.
He urged WWCF and CASE to continue to work with the farmer groups under EJASP to further expand their operations so that such opportunities could become available to other farmers.
Group Director for Walkerswood Caribbean Foods, Johnny McFarlane told JIS News that he was grateful to the EU for the vision that that they shared in regards to their commitment to Jamaican agriculture and for giving Walkerswood an opportunity to demonstrate such commitment.
“After Hurricane Ivan we were not able to take the crops from those farmers who were not severely affected because we had no power source but today we are indeed happy that we now have a big stand by plant that enables us to run production in the new factory,” he said.
He used the opportunity to appeal to other private sector organizations to partner with farmers across the island and commit themselves to supporting local agriculture.