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The Springfield Growers Association Limited was officially launched on January 17, with capital support of $15.6 million from the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the Agriculture Support Services Project (ASSP) in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The project will assist 31 farmers in the production of non-traditional crops such as cabbage, carrots, sweet corn, tomato, pumpkin and sweet pepper on 61 hectares (150 acres) of land at the Springfield property in Morant Bay, St. Thomas.
Registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies’ Act, the Springfield farmers group received approval for the project in 2003 and began production in November 2004 on leased land. To date over 5,444 kilograms (12, 000 pounds) of cabbage, tomato and sweet pepper have been reaped.
The ASSP is providing assistance to the farmers’ group for the construction of a packaging facility, the purchase of equipment for land preparation, the provision of support services and the restoration of an old irrigation system on the property.
Additionally, supported by a loan through the People’s Cooperative Bank, the group will provide $8 million as equity for the construction of buildings and irrigation lines on the farm. The project is expected to yield approximately 700,000 to 1,000,000 kilograms of produce annually. It will also provide direct employment for 175 persons and indirect employment for another 120 persons.
Through the intervention of the ASSP, the group has secured contracts with Viking Farms Limited, a major distributor of agricultural products and Rock Mountain Herbs Limited, marketers and suppliers to major fast food chains.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, in his address at the launching ceremony, commended the staff of the ASSP, the DBJ and the St. Thomas People’s Cooperative Bank, for their significant contribution towards the project. He also congratulated the farmers for their hard work in making the project a success.
“I’m very, very proud. I did not know that you have production of this quality and I want to congratulate you,” he said. He urged the farmers to continue producing quality products for local and overseas markets.
“You’ve started a good thing. You have to feed the Jamaican people on a continuous basis with Jamaican produce. You can’t produce two weeks now and then the next two weeks, importation,” the Minister stated, adding that agriculture was serious business and farmers must begin to take the industry seriously.
Referring to the praedial larceny programme, which is being set up to address farm theft, Minister Clarke said, “we are putting systems in place and the law is now enforced. We’re just waiting now on the receipt books with the help provided by the JAS (Jamaica Agricultural Society).”
“Anybody who is selling agricultural products, you must give a receipt for it because anyone you catch on the road with agricultural products must produce a receipt for it,” the Minister pointed out.
Other speakers at the function were State Minister for Transport and Works and Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson; General Manager, Credit and Loan Division at the DBJ, Byron McDaniel and Assistant Treasurer, Springfield Growers Association, Paul Watson.