Two more agro-parks being developed by mid-2015
In St Mary, tenth location for large-scale farming identified
AGRO-INVEST Corporation (AIC) has identified a tenth location at Unity Farm in St Mary to cultivate an agro-park.
So far, just over 20 per cent of the 6,600 acres of land presently targeted for large-scale farming has been brought under production.
That has resulted in the creation of over a thousand jobs -- 248 participating farmers and 839 labourers. The agro-parks also helped boost agricultural output by 18 per cent, in real terms, during the first three months of 2014.
Now a packaging facility in New Forest, Manchester, is being developed over the next 12 months, along with two additional agro-parks -- one in Spring Plain, Clarendon, and the other at Yallahs, St Thomas, where irrigation pipes, storm water channels and access roads will be constructed.
The plan is to eventually establish packaging facilities at all 10 farms through public-private partnerships to reduce post-harvest losses.
"The packaging facility is to make the product more presentable. You can pack, sort, wash, clean and grade the produce for the market in the event that the market is not ready for all the produce at once," said Charles Reid, director of agro-parks at the Agro-Invest Corporation.
Agro-Invest is also planning to implement a structured market arrangement that can guide farmers as to what to produce, and is also moving to have each Park certified so that food safety standards are aligned with international standards.
"Exporters and processors would like to know that they have such an arrangement in place so that the produce can be traced back to source and as a means of encouraging farmers to have good agricultural practices," said Reid.
Loan arrangements are also underway to support the working capital of farmers through the St Elizabeth and St Thomas Credit Unions.
Up to now, the main crops being cultivated at the agro-parks are sorghum, hay for local animal feed substitution; onion, ginger, vegetables, fruits and tubers.
The agro-parks allow private investors and farmers to enjoy economies of scale.
The geographical diversification of the farms locations also reduces the sector's overall vulnerability to extreme weather events, given that two are located in St Catherine, two are situated in Clarendon, two are in St Thomas, two in Westmoreland, one in Manchester and now one to be located in St Mary.