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Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, has announced that the first Agro-Economic Zone for the parish of St. Elizabeth is expected to be opened in August this year.

He was speaking at the official launch of the Elliot Farmers Community Enterprise Greenhouse Project in Cromwell, St. Mary, on Wednesday (February 27).

“We are looking to see if we can set up four others throughout the country, and one of the areas we are looking to set up an agro-economic zone is in St. Mary, because you [the farmers] have the land and you are able to produce,” Mr. Hutchinson said.

The agro-economic zone will be a place where farmers can take their fruits for grading, packaging, cold storage and processing into purées and juices for sale.

Mr. Hutchinson explained that one of the reasons the Government is looking at setting up agro-economic zones is to help farmers to make a profit from their Grade B and Grade C crops, which they have reaped and have been rejected in markets, and usually become waste.

“I am appalled when I see the fruits that go to waste here [in St. Mary] and in the eastern section of this country… mangoes, guavas and June plums, all of these go to waste. I want to see the collection of all these made into juice. The juice can be sent to the schools for a breakfast programme, as 30 per cent of the students throughout the country go to school without a breakfast,” he said.

The Minister emphasised that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and in keeping with this, the Government wants to provide good breakfast programmes from local produce.