Unsettled
Bernard Lodge farmers still waiting for land
A group representing the farmers of Bernard Lodge states that most farmers remain unsatisfied.

Agro-Investment Corporation Limited indicates that the Government of Jamaica remains committed to providing land for agriculture on the Bernard Lodge Estate in St Catherine even though areas have been targeted for residential and urban development.

The comment comes following an outcry from Errol Grant, elected vice-president of the Bernard Lodge Farmers Group, who said the previous story saying farmers were being settled after being displaced was incomplete.

Grant stated in a letter to the Jamaica Observer, "Allow me to correct this information. Not all farmers who were disenfranchised were compensated. Michael Blake was compensated along with a few others. That does not mean that all farmers were compensated."

"The scenario with the Bernard Lodge farmlands continues. There are still farmers who have not yet heard anything from the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holding (SCJH) for compensation or any form of redress where their livelihoods are concerned."

Grant added, "Bernard Lodge Farmers Group at no time asked or had any arrangement with RADA to do any form of negotiations on our behalf. Therefore it is unaccepted by us that through RADA a decision was made on our behalf. We also did not appoint a spokesperson."

Grant stated that the current situation is that many cases are in the hands of SCJ Holdings which is expected to provide a solution for the farmers.

Proposed acreage

The Business Observer reached out to RADA which referred the query to the Agro-Investment Corporation. The response received stated, "The responsible entity for the Greater Bernard Lodge is the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings (SCJH).

"Therefore, SCJH is responsible for the proposed master development plan and advised that 3,026.79 acres of land is proposed for agricultural production. With reference to settlement of their claims affecting the planned/ongoing development for Bernard Lodge, that will have to be discussed with the management team at SCJH."

The Business Observer reached out to the Development Bank of Jamaica which has the communications arm for the Bernard Lodge Development project.

The divestment process, which is managed by both the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), is being guided by the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan (GBLDMP), a long-term project, which covers 5,397.02 acres.

The estimated aggregate investment value of the development is over $19 billion.​ All projects are expected to commence construction by 2024.

The DBJ told the Business Observer that a response to the issue of the settlement for farmers had been prepared one week ago and that it was awaiting approval.

We were previously informed that the Government of Jamaica, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has negotiated with affected farmers and will pay each according to estimates of production lost. However, Grant stated that a settlement was still outstanding.

Former minister of state in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, had promised that farming lands in the Bernard Lodge area of St Catherine will be "significantly" increased.

He said the number of farmers would increase from 171 to 235, and investment in infrastructure development for the communities would be done under the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Plan.

Farmers have been protesting about unfulfilled promises since the start of this year.

Avia Collinder

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