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Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Audley Shaw, has given his party’s full support of the Government’s plan to establish agro parks, which are aimed at moving the country towards food security.

“We fully support this concept. We believe in a value-added approach to agriculture, where farmers’ output can become agro processors’ input with branded products such as sauces and spices,” Mr. Shaw said.

He was making his contribution to the 2013/2014 Budget Debate on Tuesday, April 23, in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Shaw noted that the development of the agro parks is critical to sustainable agriculture, while adding that the Opposition “supports the farmers and agro-processors of Jamaica”.

Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, in opening the Budget Debate on April 18, informed that approximately $1.1 billion is expected to flow to farmers, this fiscal year, as a result of activities on the first five of nine proposed agro parks to be established across the island.

This will result in direct employment for 1,500 persons, with an additional 2,500 receiving part time jobs.

Work has started at Amity Hall in St. Catherine and Ebony Park in Clarendon, while lands at Plantain Garden River in St. Thomas are being prepared for onion production.

Dr. Phillips informed that before the end of the fiscal year, work will begin on an additional two parks located at Meylersfield in Westmoreland, and Ettingdon in Trelawny.

The nine agro parks, which are to be implemented over the next three years at a cost of US$8 million, will assist in the creation of employment, increase agricultural output, reduce the national food import bill, and stimulate food exports.

The project is being funded in part by the European Union, with the Agro Investment Corporation and the National Irrigation Commission providing infrastructure development and irrigation facilities, respectively.

Among the crops being contemplated for production include some 1,700 acres of sorghum to reduce grain imports for animal feed, which is currently underway.

Additionally, some 689 acres of onions will be planted shortly, reducing the import bill for onions by about 45 per cent, while 550 acres of vegetables, legumes, condiments and tubers will be cultivated.

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter