JIS News

The Agriculture Ministry is planning to bring some 8,094 hectares (20,000 acres) of public and private lands into production, to enhance the competitiveness of the sector.
Making his contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in the House yesterday (June 7), Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke said the strategy was focused on identifying government land for distribution to farmers under various schemes.
This will involve the Ministry identifying idle lands, activating the Idle Land Orders Act to encourage development of under-utilized arable land, and upgrading the country’s soil fertility and land management capabilities.
The Minister said that emphasis would also be placed on improving the mechanisms for ensuring adherence to zoning standards regarding the use of agricultural lands. This is in addition to developing farms of 4 hectares (10 acres) or more with special emphasis on ‘Mother Farms’ as well as contract and industrial farming models.
Mr. Clarke pointed out that a preliminary survey has already identified some 1,244 hectares of available land on properties in St. Elizabeth, Portland, St. Thomas and St. Catherine.
He said that projects identified under the Land Distribution and Utilization Policy are estimated to cost $82.5 million over the 2005-2008 period, and of that sum, approximately 75 per cent would be allocated to farm development projects.
The Minister explained that the distribution of farm lands would be linked to the implementation of the Youth in Agriculture programme, through which the Ministry would be working to secure the future of farming in the country.
Mr. Clarke said the main components of the strategy would be to: promote the involvement of young people in farming; provide employment opportunities for persons in the 18-30 age group who have received practical orientation or formal training in agriculture; and stem the rural-urban drift.
In the meantime, the Ministry continues to work through its Agriculture Support Services Project (ASSP), to provide Jamaican young people with the appropriate training and post-training support to enter the agricultural field.
The Minister informed that already the $15.6 million Springfield Farms project and the Hounslow Crop Production project, two of four major projects targeting young farmers, were showing positive results.
To date, the ASSP has approved some 18 productive projects to assist farmers’ groups islandwide, at a cost of $190 million.

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