Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Everglades still owes Government millions! Parties trying to settle lease dispute

Published:Thursday | February 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/ Senior Gleaner Writer
In this 2013 photo, workmen are seen installing a roller at the Long Pond Sugar Factory.

Parliament's Public Adminis-tration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) was yes-terday told that the Government was still owed millions of dollars from Everglades Farm Limited for the lease of Hampden Sugar Factory, including more than 7,000 hectares of land.

At yesterday's sitting, one member wanted to know if the Government was currently collecting on the lease. This is after Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings previously wrote to Everglades - the owners of Long Pond and Hampden, demanding US$1.045 million, which it says is owed for lands leased under the divestment deal with the Government in 2009.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry told the committee that the issue was being arbitrated.

"There have been some lapses in the payment of the lease," Stanberry responded when asked by committee member Leslie Campbell to comment on the status of the deal.

Campbell asked if (Everglades) was up to date in the payment, and if not, what was being done to collect the outstanding sums.

"No. I don't want to comment too much on it because we have engaged a process, and

SCJ holdings, which is the Government's custodian of those lands, are now in the process of arbitration with Everglades Farm Limited in respect of a number of outstanding matters, including the leases. So in that regard, I wouldn't want to say too much about that," said Stanberry.

The Hussey family, well known in the gaming and horse racing business, acquired Long Pond in a package that included Hampden.

Under the deal, the new owners were required to maintain 60 per cent of the leased lands for sugar cane production or related products for 15 years. The deal covered the two factories and 40 hectares of land they are surrounded by, plus an additional 7,100 hectares, leased for US$40 per hectare per annum for the first 10 years of the agreement.