The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is accelerating the implementation of the remaining projects under the National Irrigation Development Programme (NIDP), before the country loses critical funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, stated that implementation of the programme has been “riddled with delays and mishaps” occasioning several extensions from the IDB, the last such extension being in November 2011, and the institution now plans to cease all disbursements by October 31, 2012.
“The net impact of this decision by the IDB has been the abandonment of the Essex Valley and the St. Dorothy’s projects, and the redirection of over US$4 million of the IDB loan resources,” Mr. Clarke said Tuesday (April 24) in a statement in the House of Representatives.
The government commenced implementation of the NIDP 2002, with a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to construct the Beacon/Little Park and Sevens River Irrigation Systems as well as to rehabilitate the Hounslow system, at a cost of US$11.5 million.
In furtherance of the programme, a contract was entered into with the IDB to finance five other projects at a cost of US$21 million. Of that sum, 80 per cent or US$16.8 million is being financed by the IDB and the remaining $4.2 million by the government. The five project areas are Colbeck (St. Catherine), New Forest/Duff House (Manchester), Yallahs (St. Thomas), St. Dorothy’s (St. Catherine) and Essex Valley (St. Elizabeth).
The Agriculture Minister told the House that since then, the programme has faced a number of challenges, which delayed implementation of a number of contracts approved by Cabinet between September and October 2011, with work only commencing in early March 2012.
He said that with this delay “the six contracts are now at risk of being completed beyond the October 31, 2012 deadline for disbursement by the IDB."
He also noted that in the case of the New Forest/Duff House project, three deep well submersible pumps were incorrectly specified leading to their inability to be installed.
“Not only has this compounded the delays but will cost the government an additional $58 million to order two new pumps with the correct specifications capable of irrigating the targeted areas,” Mr. Clarke said.
He said that intervention of the Ministry in the programme is justified to ensure that the country gets the optimum quality from the millions of dollars already invested and that the more than 700 farmers to benefit can increase their production and productivity.
Minister Clarke further noted that the Ministry has already engaged the local IDB office and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) to apprise them of developments and to ensure that the US$4 million that has been diverted from this project will be re-engaged in the agricultural sector.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter