Growth prospects good for Holland's agro-economic zone

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Growth prospects good for Holland's agro-economic zone

Monday, February 24, 2020

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries J C Hutchinson says 112 small farmers are now cultivating land on the Holland Estate vacated by the J Wray & Nephew Ltd last year.

Hutchinson told the Jamaica Observer Central by telephone last week that the farmers are “cultivating and are already reaping” crops on 850 acres of the 2,400-acre property, which was previously under sugar cane production dating back hundreds of years.

Crops now being farmed include papaya, melon, sweet pepper, cantaloupe, sorrel, and sweet potato.

Hutchinson said that in total, 226 farmers were registered to take up mostly five to 20 acre lots on the property, which adjoins the world-famous Holland Bamboo attraction, just outside Lacovia, a few miles west of Santa Cruz.

The minister said many farmers had been hesitant to begin cultivation because of stray cattle numbering up to 400 at one point, which roamed the Holland Estate property.

According to Hutchinson, the vast majority of the animals have been corralled into a fenced area.

“We have gotten the number (still roaming) down to only about 30 now — they are wild animals nobody owns them — & we will be dealing with them as well,” said Hutchinson.

He recalled that extensive damage caused by roaming cattle “eating down the cane” was among several reasons for the high operational costs and losses, which led to J Wray & Nephew's decision to shut down the Holland Sugar Estate, which was announced in 2018.

Hutchinson, who is also Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Western in which Holland falls, noted that in addition to property damage, stray cattle pose a considerable risk to motorists and other road users.

He revealed that recent collisions in the Lacovia area led to the deaths of two animals and extensive damage to motor vehicles.

He pointed to the need to establish animal pounds.

“These 'destroyful' animals don't just damage property, they are a threat to life,” said Hutchinson, “we need pounds all over the island, these stray animals need to be impounded,” he said.

As part of the drive to develop the new phase of the Holland Estate, described by Hutchinson as an “agro-economic zone” — which when completed will include grading, packaging, and processing — he recently accompanied Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative to Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Belize, Dr Crispim Moreira, on a tour of the property.

A news release from the industry, commerce, agriculture, and fisheries ministry said Hutchinson told Moreira that produce would be graded, packaged, and sold to the hotel sector, export and local markets, while the remainder would be processed.

Fruit juice and other value-added products will go towards Jamaica's school-feeding programme, including a breakfast component.

Describing the project as an exciting model, Moreira expressed a desire to see it multiplied throughout the country and beyond. He said the FAO would be willing to support the Government.

“I am very excited…I think Jamaica can show the way for the other countries, especially the Caribbean,” The news release reported Moreira as saying.

There are also plans for the allocation of 400 acres of the Holland Estate to the Airport Authority of Jamaica for expansion of an existing airstrip, which currently occupies about 40 acres.

Hutchinson told Observer Central that the expanded aircraft facility would make it possible to airlift products from the agro-economic zone as well as service the growing tourism sector on Jamaica's south coast.

— Garfield Myers


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