JIS News

The Government is looking to make Hounslow in St. Elizabeth an agro-industrial zone, boasting up-to-date post harvest plants, as part of the thrust to modernise and transform Jamaican agriculture.

Hounslow is perhaps the most fertile area in Jamaica and it has one of the largest irrigation infrastructure in the country of well over 3,000 acres of land.  Already, a packaging house has been set up in the rich farming community and construction is slated to start on a pepper mash factory in March.A breeding station for small ruminants is also to be restored.

“We have a five-year plan for this area that is going to capitalise on the lands that are available to get farmers to grow produce that are demanded and will go into further processing,” said Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton.

He was addressing a meeting with farmers on Thursday (Feb. 17) at the Hounslow playfield to inform them how to manage demand and supply to avoid gluts in the market,and how they can benefit from the packaging house, which is being set up by GraceKennedy.

Dr. Tufton said that the industrial park will not only provide farmers with a ready market for their produce, but they will also benefit from training and technical support to increase yield and enhance quality for the discerning consumer market.

A facility is in place to train farmers in best practices in irrigation and the Ministry is working with the Sydney Pagon Agricultural School in the parish, to have that institution upgraded, through collaboration with the University of Technology.

“We want to, as best as possible… work with you to grow produce in the best possible way to improve your yields, to get more out of what you do. Instead of getting 50 pounds out of a square, you can get 60 or 70 pounds out of a square,” Dr. Tufton stated.

The packaging house will be operated by GraceKennedy under a lease agreement with the Government, and the company has invested millions of dollars in renovating and equipping the facility.

GraceKennedy will enter into contracts with farmers for the supply of produce, which will be packaged with the Grace brand and sold to hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and wholesalers.

These include vegetables such as cabbage, onions, carrots, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers to be produced mainly in greenhouses, and tubers such as yams and sweet potatoes from open fields.

Agri-Business Manager at GraceKennedy Foods, Orville Palmer, informed that a numbers of contracts have already been secured with farmers for the supply for produce and the company is having ongoing meetings with the farming community.

The forum was also addressed by officials of the two major hotel chains, Sandals and SuperClubs, who outlined the main produce that the hotels are interested in obtaining from local farmers.