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Significant work is in progress under the Government’s agro park project, with some 3,237 hectares (8,000 acres) of land already engaged in the production of a number of critical crops.

The parks are situated in Plantain Gardens and Yallahs, St. Thomas; Amity Hall and Hill Run, St. Catherine; Ebony Park and Spring Plain in Clarendon; New Forest/Duff House, St Elizabeth/Manchester; Ettingdon, Trelawny; and Meylersfield in Westmoreland.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, in his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 8, noted that the agro parks, targeted specifically at import substitution, are being developed through a tri-partite partnership involving the Government, farmer/investors, and the private sector.

The Government is making the lands available with the requisite infrastructure for leasing to farmers/investors, who will be responsible for working capital and agricultural production.

“The private sector will be responsible for providing markets, that is, farmers will sell to them on a contractual basis and they (investors), in turn, will market the goods to the hotels, agro-processors, export markets or retail outlets,” Minister Clarke explained.

“In some instances the investor/farmer will market his or her own goods; but in every instance what is being produced will be tied to a specific market,” he noted further.

Providing details of the work underway, Minister Clarke informed that 48 hectares (120 acres) of lands have been identified for the agro-park in Plantain Gardens. He said that land preparation has commenced, and farmers have been engaged through leases, to produce ginger and onion on some 23 hectares (50 acres) of those lands.

The farmers are also being provided with working capital in the amount of $40 million through a loan from the St. Thomas Cooperative Credit Union Limited.

“Seeds have been procured on behalf of the farmers, and the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) are working with them to improve crop husbandry and to provide technical assistance with the installation of on farm irrigation,” Mr. Clarke informed.

He noted that at the same time, the Ministry is in the process of rehabilitating the existing irrigation system to supply the entire 48 hectares, and main drains will be cleaned, while proper access roads will also be provided.

“All the ginger cultivated will be purchased from the farmers by the Ministry’s Export Division. An importer, who currently trades in onions, will purchase the onions produced in this agro-park through contracts with the farmers. By next year, we expect the rest of the lands in this agro-park to come into production,” Minister Clarke told the House.

At Amity Hall, theGovernment has provided an irrigation and drainage system that comprises some 809 hectares (2,000 acres) of land. Significant bridge/road work has also been done to allow for access to large equipment such as planters and harvesters.

Mr. Clarke also informed that land preparation activities are being finalised on some 323 hectares (800 acres) of land and the planting of sorghum by Caribbean Broilers will commence within days.

“Another 283 hectares (700 acres) of sorghum will be planted this year by other private interests. Red peas will be planted in rotation with the sorghum, and the quantum of red peas to be reaped will be sufficient to replace a significant portion of that being imported,” the Agriculture Minister said.

In addition to the sorghum, another 48 hectares (120 acres) of land is being engaged for vegetables; 12 hectares (30 acres) for onion; and another 40 hectares (100 acres) for hay production in support of a private sector-led small ruminant expansion project.

Meanwhile, the focus at Ebony Park will be on the production of onions, yams, pepper, pineapple and a mixture of vegetables.

The Government is in the process of concluding discussions with a Canadian investor, who is the largest exporter of beans to Jamaica, along with a number of Jamaican interests, to grow a minimum of 600 acres of onions, which represents approximately 42 per cent of national demand.

Additionally, the Ministry is finalising discussions with two of the largest suppliers/importers of vegetables to the tourism industry to establish a 40 hectare (100 acre) vegetable farm focusing on replacing products that they now import.

“In addition, three farmers’ associations are producing vegetables, tubers, condiments and spices amounting to 101 hectares (250 acres), valued at $150 million in the 2013/14 financial year. In order to support all these production activities, the Ministry’s contribution will be the installation of a proper irrigation system in this area. This will be implemented in this fiscal year,” Mr. Clarke said.

In relation to the facilities at Spring Plain, Hill Run, New Forest/Duff House, Yallahs and Ettingdon, the Ministry is conducting the necessary assessments and preliminary work in terms of crop identification, planning of necessary infrastructure works, identification of farmer/investors and private sector partners.

The intention, Mr. Clarke said, is to bring these parks fully on stream by next year. He informed that significant production activities is already taking place at New Forest/Duff House and Yallahs, as two new irrigation schemes have been completed for these areas.

“The value that these agro parks will add is to orientate production to defined markets by linking existing farmers to private sector buyers. This work is currently being done, and therefore, for all intents and purposes, these two agro-parks will come on stream this year,” Mr. Clarke said.

Contact: Latonya Linton

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