Agriculture minister gets report on former cane lands

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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MINISTER of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw says he now has a copy of a report on the vast acreages of former cane lands now lying idle.

He informed the House of Representatives on Tuesday that the report shows that some 16,617.87 hectares are now being returned to the Government by Pan Caribbean Sugar Company.

“Of this, 8,283 hectares are now in active sugar cane production, which makes 8,359 hectares potentially available for other agricultural activities, including 4,313 which are marginal and in need of rehabilitation,” Mr Shaw said, as he closed the 2018/19 Sectoral Debate.

He noted, further, that already the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings is processing several requests for land by interested investors.

“In all of this, we will give preference to investments embracing the mother farm/satellite farm concept, and our preferred mode of investment is leasehold rather than sale. Under my watch, every square inch of these lands must be productively engaged,” Shaw emphasised.

Meanwhile, the minister said Pan Caribbean has given notice that it will not operate Monymusk next year, adding that the Government is acutely aware of the huge investments made by cane farmers in this industry.

He pointed out that since the establishment of the Cane Expansion Fund Unit in December 2014, approximately $519 million has been approved for on-lending to farmers in the Monymusk factory area. Of this amount, $493 million has been disbursed to 93 farmers for cultivation of 404.96 hectares.

“There is no way that this Government could sit idly by and allow this investment to be squandered with the closure of the factory. We are therefore, working with Pan Caribbean to facilitate joint ventures with new investors or an outright sale of the factory,” Shaw said.

“We are aware that these initiatives might not materialise for the next crop. Therefore, the Government will put in place measures to ensure that the cane grown in that area is processed by Appleton or Worthy Park. Cane farmers can therefore employ the necessary agronomic measures to secure the crop for next year,” he added.

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