MONTEGO BAY — Former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, presented over 40 employees of Frome Sugar Estate, Westmoreland, with lease agreements on Friday July 1, 2011.
The lease agreements, handed out at the factory, are part of Government’s objective to assist displaced sugar workers and their dependents who qualify under the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited Housing Project, following the divestment of its sugar investments.
The housing project is aimed at regularizing the occupation of houses and lands owned by the Government at Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge, by giving the occupants an opportunity to lease land with an option to purchase.
Dr. Tufton said the occasion was significant, as the programme would finally address the relocation of residents of sugar barracks into decent housing.
He said the Government was sensitive to the realities of what transpired in the sugar industry in the past, when many persons who worked in IT occupied land, property and social amenities that they did not have to pay for, as part of their employment contract.
“The Government believes it has an obligation, in changing that paradigm to a more viable industry, to working to help those persons who benefited from the industry, to transition themselves in a context that does not bring them undue levels of hardship that would make it difficult for them to survive,” Dr. Tufton noted.
He said over 2,000 householders from the three former Government-owned estates, Monymusk, Bernard Lodge and Frome, would be relocated.
Dr. Tufton stated that the Government is addressing the social issues, through the Sugar Transformation Programme. Some $900 million is earmarked to be spent this financial year, to provide immediate relief to about 5,000 vulnerable sugar workers and small cane farmers.
The transformation programme will also address the relocation of residents of sugar barracks to decent housing. Some $500 million is be spent over the next two years to benefit over 300 households, or 1,200 persons, he pointed out.
The Government is working with a number of agencies to develop subdivision approvals, as well as critical services, such as schools and clinics, to ensure that they are available in the relocated communities, the Minister said. He added that $200 million is being spent over the next two years.
“So, in terms of your schools and in terms of the clinics, depending on which estate, the plans are going to vary. What we are committing to you today is that, you are not going to see a transition which ends up in a way where you will not have anywhere to send your child to school”, Dr. Tufton said.
He noted that it was important for all participants to support these efforts, the end results of which will be a cane industry that, hopefully, will result in more canes being grown, more farmers participating, a refurbished factory, more sugar being produced, more molasses for the rum market and, hopefully better prices for sugar and the farmers as well as, over time, the co-generation of electricity using bagasse.
By GLENIS ROSE, JIS Reporter