This allocation, says Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier, will complement the $718 million spent over the past two years to develop the nine agro-parks currently in operation.
He told the House of Representatives during his 2015/16 Sectoral Debate presentation on Tuesday, April 21, that the provision for the new fiscal year will facilitate completion of infrastructure works already in progress at Spring Plain/Ebony Park, Clarendon; Yallahs, St. Thomas; and Meylersfield, Westmoreland, inclusive of irrigation systems, roads, drainage, land clearance, and packing facilities; and facilitate construction of a new water supply system at Hill Run, St. Catherine.
In addition, infrastructure works will be undertaken in Seven Rivers and Sunderland, St. James, and Enfield, St. Mary, to create new agro-parks; and installation of an irrigation system at Spring Ground, St. Elizabeth, to engage over hectares (200 acres) of land in a new agro-park.
The Hounslow irrigation system in St. Elizabeth will be extended and farm roads constructed to complement the packing house and pepper mash facility, already at the location, to create a new agro-park.
Production activities will commence in the Nonsuch/Unity agro-park in St. Mary, where Mr. Kellier told the House there is “overwhelming” demand for lands to engage in the export of banana, cocoa, and coconut production.
The Minister said these engagements indicate that the Administration is “moving beyond our International Monetary Fund (IMF) commitments,” pointing out that the value-chain approach that the agro-park exemplifies “is the only sustainable way to grow the sector.”
Noting that expenditure on the agro-parks initiative, to date, “is already giving returns,” Mr. Kellier informed that over 1.75 million kilograms of produce have been reaped from over 754 hectares of land targeted for cultivation, through the installation of modern infrastructure for production, processing, and marketing, while providing employment for 1,428 persons.
He noted that the agro-parks are being facilitated through a “mix” of investments, involving public-private partnerships, and, “in every instance, connecting farmers with markets.”
“This is no small achievement. The agro-parks remain the flagship programme of the Ministry, to transform the sector, and demonstrate the sustainability of a value-chain approach to agricultural development,” Mr. Kellier further said.