- Two properties, deemed potential agro-park sites, have been identified in St. Mary.
- Located at Nonsuch and Unity, the properties, if utilized, will bring the number of established agro-parks to 11.
- Additionally, they would increase the 8,000 acres of land targeted for cultivation, to over 1,400 acres.
Two properties, deemed potential agro-park sites, have been identified in St. Mary and are being explored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to determine the feasibility of their development.
Located at Nonsuch and Unity, the properties, if utilized, will bring the number of established agro-parks under the Government’s US$8 million programme, to 11.
Additionally, they would increase the 8,000 acres of land targeted for cultivation, to over 1,400 acres.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, and Member of Parliament for Central St. Mary, where the properties are located, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, made the announcement while addressing the launch of the European Union’s (EU) $718 million (€4.73 million) Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAM) Programme, at the St. Mary parish Church hall, Port Maria, on May 14.
Dr. Guy advised that representatives from the Ministry, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) visited the properties last week, following “serious” representation which he made, and are currently exploring the proposal.
The Minister said early feedback suggests that the initial findings from the visit “meet their requirements and expectations”.
Dr. Guy told JIS News that the property at Nonsuch, which is owned by the Commissioner of Lands, is approximately 600 acres of “prime agricultural land”.
He further advised that the property at Unity is owned by the National Housing Trust (NHT), and comprises over 800 acres of land which have been determined capable of accommodating agricultural and residential developments.
“The Ministry is negotiating with the National Housing Trust to see whether they can get a portion of the land suitable for agriculture. We are hoping that with the provision of funding, we can transform (portions of both properties) into one of the growth areas of the economy,” the Minister added.
Dr. Guy called on farmers in St. Mary, including banana farmers, to get prepared for the venture if the discussions proved fruitful.
Nine agro-parks have already been earmarked under the Government’s Agro-Parks Programme, being administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, through its division, Agro-Invest Corporation.
The parks, which comprise 8,000 acres are situated at Plantain Gardens and Yallahs, St. Thomas; Amity Hall and Hill Run, St. Catherine; Ebony park and Spring Plain, Clarendon; New Forrest/Duff House, St. Elizabeth/Manchester; Ettingdon, Trelawny; and Meylersfield, Westmoreland.
They are being developed through a tripartite partnership involving the government, farmers/investors, and the private sector. The parks are intended to enhance crop production in an effort to significantly reduce Jamaica’s annual food import bill which averages nearly US1 billion.
The Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAM) programme is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries over the next four years,
It will see over 2,000 banana and plantain farmers and workers benefiting from key activities, which will be financed through grants, aimed at enhancing crop production and strengthening local markets.
Under the project, to be managed by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Banana Board will be responsible for administering technical services, which will include: crop testing and sampling, and enhancing development of the fruits’ quality, quantity, and resilience to diseases, through scientific inputs.
Another key stakeholder, the All Island Banana Growers Association (AIBGA) will have responsibility for ensuring the provision of plant material; inputs, such as fertilizers; and increasing market access.
The activities will primarily benefit stakeholders in the traditional banana-growing parishes of Portland, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Mary, Clarendon, and St. James.