Business

Private investor plans $40-m packaging house 

for St Thomas agro park

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 26, 2014    

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A local company plans to build a $40-million packaging house at the Plantain Garden River (PGR) Agro Park in St Thomas.

The unnamed entity was identified by Agro Invest Corporation (AIC), the managing agency of the island's agro parks, while the the procurement process has started for the construction of a $33-million packaging house at New Forest/Duff House, by the government at the border of Manchester and St Elizabeth.

Two more agro parks, in addition to the current seven locations, will be rolled out in the new financial year.

One will be set up at Meylersfield, Westmoreland, featuring fish harvesting and the agro processing of ackee and callaloo —invariably, that agro park will eventually include a packaging house. The other park is to be established in Eddington, Trelawny, and it will include livestock production.

Indeed, the development of agro parks — dedicated to the production of crops that includes all facets along the agriculture value chain — is moving ahead steadily.

The agro-park model being employed requires the Government to identify lands in its portfolio and put in place requisite infrastructure to ensure consistent production as well as assist with marketing, while the farmers are responsible for investing in the production.

Construction of the packaging house at PGR will begin soon, Everton Spencer, CEO of AIC told the Business Observer.

"We want to do the storage and packaging in a fashion that will make the goods suitable for exports, it is to be at a standard that is superior to the system that we are accustomed to," said Spencer.

As for production of by-products of the crops produced at the parks, Spencer pointed out that this aspect of agro-processing is being assessed but isn't a part of the current phase of the agro parks.

"It's something we are looking at, but the funding we have right now is finite," he said.

Earlier this year, the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) invested $1 billion to put critical infrastructure in place at some of the agro parks.

Spencer added: "What we are trying to do is to encourage private sector investment to complement the small farmers; these investors can bring significant value to post- harvesting, increase our exports and cut imports."

PGR in St Thomas, which is known for the failure of an onion crop, has since overcome that and continues to plant onion, as well as pumpkin, ginger, irish potato and cucumber.

"I want to point out that the ginger production to date has been exceptional. We has planted 10 acres and it is world-standard," Spencer said. "There was a problem with the onion, we have learnt our lessons, moved on and we are growing."

Currently, over 1,000 people, including 225 farmers, work on the agro parks, which span 1,063 acres of land that are under production.

The agro parks, in addition to PGR include Amity Hall, St Catherine where pumpkin, hot pepper, okra, irish potato, sorrel, castor bean is being planted. Sorghum is also being cultivated by Caribbean Broilers Group; Ebony Park in Clarendon has pumpkin, sweet potato, papaya, dasheen, cucumber, sorrel, while Spring Plains has scotch bonnet peppers, corn, cassava, and plantain. Yallahs Agro Park, St Thomas has cabbage and onion, and Newforest Duffhouse has escallion, pineapple, scotch bonnet peppers. Hill Run in St Catherine has fish.

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