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On Sunday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is slated to officially break ground for the long-promised hotel to be constructed on the 52-acre Denbigh property in Clarendon, which is owned by the Jamaica Agriculture Society (JAS), organisers of the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show.
Construction has already begun on the three-tiered building, the first floor of which will house a food court to be named after late agriculture minister Roger Clarke, Senator Norman Grant, president of the JAS, disclosed on Monday. However, the food court will not be completed in time for the 63rd staging of the annual three-day event, which gets under way today.
"It was never the intention to complete it for this Denbigh because its part of a 36-month development programme," Senator Grant told The Gleaner. "The first floor is going to be the food court and meeting centre, which we will name in honour of Roger, and the other two floors will be the long-talked-about Denbigh Hotel."
Largest in Western Hemisphere,
Despite the lingering drought, which continues to affect production and productivity, this year's show, said to be the largest such agriculture extravaganza in the Western Hemisphere, continues to attract growing numbers of exhibitors and patrons. Of the anticipated 250 exhibitors, 200 have confirmed their participation, with visitors from The Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados, Canada, and the United States in attendance.
"I've been asked whether or not the drought is going to affect the show, and the verdict is out, but I expect to have quality produce. There is no doubt that the drought itself could certainly reduce the amount of produce that one normally has for trade, but in terms of display, I expect to see very, very impressive displays coming from the parishes. But let's wait and see what happens. I expect to have good turnout anyway, notwithstanding the challenges of the drought," the JAS president declared.
In fact, Grant is anticipating one of the best showings in the small ruminants (goats and sheep) category this year, thanks to the response of Hi-Pro, which donated 100 bags of feed to goat and sheep farmers, who had complained that the drought was hurting their chances to meet the high demands in preparation for this year's show.
"So that's a big incentive for farmers, and we are hoping that it is going to motivate a lot of them to come out," he said.
Among the overseas visitors confirmed for Denbigh are regional director of The Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation, as well as Jethro Greene, chief coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers' Network, with plans in the works for the JAS to collaborate with both entities.
And Senator Grant was confidently declaring this year's show a financial success even before it starts.
He told The Gleaner: "We think it's important that we attract, as wide as possible, exhibitors into the show, and I just did some indicative numbers and Denbigh is going to bring to the Jamaican economy, easily, a billion dollars worth of business revenue. When you look at the money all of the exhibitors are spending not only in Clarendon and not only on the show ground, but people all over Jamaica are spending money towards the Denbigh show, so it's going to be a big, big driver."