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Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, on Tuesday, June 4, officially broke ground for the establishment of a $24.8 million sorrel processing plant in Bethel Town, Westmoreland.

Work on the 204-square metre modern facility, which will consist of production area, dry and cold storage, and sorting area, as well as office and bathroom conveniences, is already well underway, and is expected to be completed within three months.

It will process sorrel to make jams, jellies and juices in addition to other value-added products, while significantly reducing the need for further imports for the Jamaican market.

The processing facility, which will be operated by the Bethel Town Agricultural Co-operative Society, is being constructed by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) under its World Bank-funded Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

Minister Clarke, in welcoming the project, said it symbolises Government’s intention to “seriously deal” with import substitution.

“This is yet another expression that this Government intends, in a very, very serious way, to deal with import substitution and to grow the agricultural sector. Why is it we have to import sorrel concentrate into this country to make drink, when sorrel can be grown almost anywhere in Jamaica?” he queried.

He informed that the Ministry is working with the Mexican Government to train persons in the use of machinery to make the harvesting of sorrel easier.

He noted that farmers in Central Westmoreland are already preparing lands to plant sorrel “so you had better hurry with the construction”.

General Manager at JSIF, Loy Malcolm, informed that project will “transform over 120 acres of sorrel into value-added products”.

“We at JSIF are happy to be a part of this and wish you all every success in this project,” she noted.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, and Member of Parliament for Eastern Westmoreland, Hon. Luther Buchanan, in his remarks, said the ground breaking exercise “means a brighter future for agricultural development in the parish of Westmoreland”.

The agro-processing facility is expected to realise a 400 per cent increase in revenue for farmers, while generating employment opportunities for community members.

Contact: Glenis A. Rose