The Ministry of Agriculture says more farmers will be able to take advantage of modern infrastructure and the most comprehensive, technology-driven space in Jamaica’s history following the official launch of the revised Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan.
State Minister Floyd Green—decrying the fact that only 25.4 per cent or 794.15 acres of land currently apportioned for agriculture in Bernard Lodge is in production—declared that provisions in the master plan will create over 3,000 acres of active farming space to accommodate both small and large-scale agricultural activities.
“Part of the challenge we’ve had in our history is that we have had access to land but oftentimes that land is not being put into active production. And it serves no purpose unless we’re finding ways to ensure that [the] land is producing,” Green said.
He said within three to five years, the Government is expecting to put the total 3,028 acres into 100 per cent production year-round, an important step in achieving food security and Jamaica’s import deficit. Speaking at a press conference on Friday (Feb 14), Green further indicated that the aim is to achieve from livestock, horticulture, orchards and cash crops as well as castor beans and cannabis, among other crops.
“Sugar [cane] has been on the decline but where you see challenges we have to seek opportunity. We believe there are a number of crops, including cannabis and castor beans, that can plug that gap and even lead to greater returns,” Green said.
The junior minister explained that there are 171 agricultural leases in the Bernard Lodge area, which will be increased to at least 235 under the revised master plan. There are another 55 unregistered farmers, who the Government plans on getting regularised into the Greater Bernard Lodge development, a move that leaves no one, legitimate or otherwise behind. Added to the revised dimensions of the St Catherine development is the Bernard Lodge South division, comprising 60 parcels of leasable land, which was not a part of the original Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan (GBLDMP).
According to Green, the current administration is learning from past mistakes where land was leased for agricultural production, however, parties that took up the offer were left to their devices to also create the necessary infrastructure. The GBLDMP would eliminate that problem, as the Government would provide these subdivisions already cleared, ploughed and furrowed. The land will also feature electric connectivity, a first for a wide cross-section of the area.
“A state-of-the-art pressurised irrigation system will be put into that 1,330 acres. Procurement has already started for that irrigation system. The plan is for no farmer will be left behind,” Green said.