Mr Wright said that the current approach taken by the government is wrong, misguided and does not serve the country’s the long-term survivability or our food security objectives.
“The PM said there was to be a review of the plans, to date we have heard nothing of the outcome of this secret review. The Jamaican people, especially the affected farmers, must be given information about this public asset, the divestment cannot be between the Prime Minister and a chosen few,” the Shadow Minister said.
He said the threat to demolish over one (1) billion dollars of irrigation infrastructure on the best contiguous land most suited for farming and preventing the current farmers from resuming production to honour their existing contracts, is an assault on the livelihood of families and communities that depend on agriculture for their existence.
“This section of land has in recent times proven to be suitable for onion production to which the country now imports 80-90 per cent and has seen production increased from 8000 lbs/acre to 30,000 lbs/acre simply through capacity building of farmers and provision of technical service,” the Agriculture Shadow Minister said in a statement this afternoon.
“We are concerned that farmers currently producing on these lands with a more efficient system of irrigation are being asked to relocate to areas with less favourability, including contaminated irrigation water supply and in some instances improper irrigation infrastructure,” Mr Wright said.
He said the position of the SCJ Holdings Ltd’s failure to release a structured approach to the divestment of the lands at Bernard Lodge or on any of the former sugar lands is inexplicable. Mr Wright said interested farmers must be told when to submit applications for the limited supply of lands and the rates and terms of the proposed lease must be published for all to see.
In the interim, the sale and/or lease of lands previously used as sugar lands must be halted immediately until a complete body of information is available on the way forward, Mr Wright insisted.
The PNP Shadow Minister said, while there has been promises of increased agricultural production on account of major investments in the area, the actions of the government do not support the future of small farmers.
“There are other available agricultural lands that are not currently being utilised which could be used for this major and welcomed development. It could be done elsewhere and based on the proposed technology, it certainly does not require class A soils for the project’s success,” Mr Wright said.
He said further, that a review of the figures showed that in 2018, Jamaica imported over one billion kilograms (1.017 B. Kg.) of agricultural items and therefore the announced seventeen million kilograms (17 M kg) of production that is being promised, when fully operational, will result in an import replacement of only 1.6 percent (1.6%) and not forty percent (40%) as stated elsewhere.
The PNP is urging the government to seek alternate areas for housing and leave our best agriculture lands for agriculture to feed our people.
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