J$500m in civil contracts signed for infrastructure works at four facilities
FIVE civil works contracts, valued at J$500 million, were signed on Tuesday by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries and local contractors for infrastructure development in four parks under the ministry's Agricultural Competitiveness Programme.
Graham Williams, financial management specialist at the IDB, told guests at the signing ceremony on Tuesday that the IDB approved the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme for US$15 million in 2010 with "the objective of financing priority areas in the agricultural sector that would increase productivity and competitiveness among small and medium-size farmers and generate increased employment and income earning opportunities for persons in the agricultural sector". These included areas like market access and market linkages development, food quality and safety management systems as well as agribusiness value chain development.
The project, he said, was also designed "to assist the Government of Jamaica in developing the strategic agro-park initiative to catalyse growth".
The contracts signed on Tuesday were for infrastructure works in agro-parks established "to stabilise the agricultural supply chain, increase competitive exports and put into production unutilised rural land and labour in Yallahs, St Thomas; New Forrest/Duff House, Manchester/St Elizabeth; Spring Plain/Ebony Park, Clarendon and Hill Run, St Catherine.
Williams explained that through these contracts, access road networks will be constructed allowing farmers to significantly reduce the cost and time to transport agriculture products from farm to market, and a parking facility to be constructed in New Forrest/Duff House will improve value added and storage techniques to better mitigate and plan against market fluctuations. Storm water channels will also be constructed to reduce the risk of flooding and irrigation infrastructure will be developed in the area of Ebony Park and Spring Plain to guarantee that farmers will have access to reliable water supply throughout the year, ensuring sustainability and consistency of crop yields.
In his address at the signing ceremony, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke, said that the Government's investment of over J$1 billion on the agro parks is already "bearing dividends".
"To date, over 1.2 million pounds of produce has been reaped from the parks, including yams, potatoes, melons, pumpkins, ginger, onions."
He said that the Government had already spent $287 million to put in infrastructure in the existing parks, the five contracts signed this morning will see another $500 million being spent to install infrastructure in Spring Plain/Ebony Park, New Forrest/Duff House and Yallahs.
"Yesterday (Monday) Cabinet approved $72 million for another contract and we are committing another $133 million for a project at the Hill Run Agro-Park, which has already been designed and discussed for IDB support," the minister further disclosed.
The minister also announced that the Government of Jamaica, through the Agriculture Competitiveness Programme funded by the IDB and working in collaboration with the (IICA), "has launched an export platform which involves identifying markets, training farmers and potential exporters in international business practices, exposing them to these markets in an organized way to bringing these farmers and exporters in contact with the markets."
He said the ministry has already established linkages in the UK through the Fresh Produce Consortium, which has resulted in Jamaican farmers and exporters finalising transactions for the supply of sweet potato, yam, julie mangoes, ginger, moringa, castor oil, a variety of herbs and spices and a range of fruits.
The Tesco Supermarket chain, one of the largest in the UK, has indicated an interest in buying Jamaican solo papaya and the Government ha also been able to finalise transactions for the return of bananas to Britain, the minister said.
Indicating that the Jamaican team is following leads with a number of European buyers for the supply of Jamaican agricultural products, Minister Clarke declared "now that we have found the markets, our strategy is to organise the agro-parks and mobilise farmers in these agro-parks to supply the produce."