Use Hampden lands for agro-park, says North Trelawny MP
Victor Wright, the member of parliament for North Trelawny, is recommending that some of the lands at the Hampden Sugar Estate, where the emphasis has shifted from sugar to rum production, should be used to grow other crop in an agro-park-style setting, which would ultimately boost economic growth.
"At Hampden, there is a 90-hectare drip system that is installed that was not used, and I think it would make good sense for an agro-park to go there," said Wright, while addressing a recent Gleaner Growth Forum in Falmouth.
Wright, a trained agronomist, explained that plans to develop an agro-park in the vicinity of the Everglades Farms-owned Hampden Estate, which is situated near the border of Trelawny and St James, was drafted in 2003 during his tenure as an employee of the Sugar Company of Jamaica Limited (SCJ).
"At Hampden, there is an underground infrastructure for drip irrigation, and we had rehabilitated a pump for the same agro-park concept from as far back as 2003. We at SCJ were going to put in a centralised irrigation system and a centralised marketing system, and then give those lands to select partners," said Wright, who wants to see those plans revitalised.
"We had, in the first stage, planted pumpkin and scallion and other vegetables there, so it would be good for vegetable crops because of the soil type," continued Wright.
"We had partnered with RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) and had done the costing for each of the different crops ... . I know the plan was still being looked at in 2007, but SCJ was just not given the mandate to go ahead because of the turn the sugar industry was taking at the time, heading straight into divestment."
NEW HAMPDEN OWNERS
The Hampden Estate, which was founded in 1753, is part of a historic tradition of sugar manufacturing in Jamaica. In the 2009 divestment of the local sugar industry, the Hussey family-owned Everglades Farms became its new owners.
"The infrastructure is there, and because the land was sold to Everglades, I do not think anything was ever done to the infrastructure. It is something that can be looked at," continued Wright.
"What was lacking was the basic infrastructure in terms of irrigation, and all of it is there; it just needs to be revised."
In speaking to a proposal he made some time ago, Dennis Meadows, the JLP caretaker for North Trelawny, said alternative crops should be considered in order to give sugar workers other options to improve their own livelihoods.
"I proposed that, of the parcels of land in the region of Everglades, where over 5,000 hectares of land are used and the remainder is not being used ... that these lands be made available to workers, whether in the form of lease or lease-purchase in the long term, so they can pursue alternative crops...," said Meadows.
"Sugar is a dying industry, and when you look on all the sugar belts, you do not see the attendant development in terms of improved housing and infrastructure. What you see in these sugar belts is abject poverty ... ," added Meadows.