Former sugar workers in St Thomas to benefit from 3,000 acres of land, Charles saysSunday, October 24, 2021
Hundreds of former sugar workers in St Thomas are to benefit from access to some 3,000 acres of land for them to continue to earn an income.
The initiative is a collaboration involving SCJ Holdings Limited and the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association.
Of the total acreage that has been set aside, 560 acres will be sub-leased to former sugar workers displaced by the closure of the Golden Grove Sugar Factory. It will also facilitate the regularisation of tenure for informal occupants.
The disclosure was made by Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern, Dr Michelle Charles, during her contribution this week to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives.
Charles said the Plantain Garden Agro-Park will be expanded by some 145 acres to be managed by the Agro-Investment Corporation, while 500 acres will go to the Plantain Garden River Co-operative Society Limited for on-leasing to its members.
Another 1,500 acres have been made available at concessionary rates for individuals and small farmers.
“Madam Speaker, St Thomas Eastern’s land is fertile, the people are hardworking, it is time for St Thomas Eastern to shine,” Charles told the House.
As it relates to opportunities for young people, the first-term MP, who is representing a constituency once held by her father, Pearnel Charles Sr, and for 27 years by the People's National Party before she won the seat in the 2020 general election, said she has inherited an area plagued by unemployment.
“This has caused brain drain within the constituency as our graduates have now migrated to other parishes or abroad. This is not a new phenomenon, the movement of people has always been linked to the failure of where you are to provide you with an opportunity, so you move somewhere else,” Charles noted.
She also noted that the constituency has some of the brightest and most ambitious young people in Jamaica.
“I want to tell the young people of St Thomas that their hopes and opportunities are no longer outside of our parish but it will be right here where you live. It is time to bring St Thomas workers home, it is time to create jobs for them in St Thomas and I am here to help pioneer that,” Charles declared.
She pointed to a major project that is already underway that she anticipates will go a long way to solving the unemployment problem in the parish - the joint venture agreement between Factories Corporation of Jamaica and China Harbour Engineering Company Limited to establish the Morant Bay Urban Centre.
The project is being financed by the National Commercial Bank to the tune of $6 billion.
“The Morant Bay Urban Centre is presently overbooked and is expected to host both public and private entities, which will include two BPO [business process outsourcing] facilities, a university, supermarkets and multiple fast-food restaurants.
“Yes Madam Speaker, KFC is coming to St Thomas. The opening of the Morant Bay Urban Centre is expected to provide thousands of jobs for the people of St Thomas and our people on the east side will benefit from this venture,” Charles said.