Tue | Aug 20, 2019

Spencer: Plans afoot to boost farm output

Published:Tuesday | April 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer

Following a tour of the Metcalfe Street Juvenile Remand Centre in west Kingston yesterday, State Minister of National Security Rudyard Spencer alluded to plans to ramp up the level of production and productivity at the facility that houses boys waiting to have their cases heard in the courts.

"I have particular interest in your farm programme ... and we are going to be taking the farm to a level where, after we have eaten what we produce, what is left will be for sale. Soon and very soon, we are hoping you won't be on the Budget because you will be self-sufficient," Spencer said in a press briefing at the end of the tour.

However, the minister of state, who took office following a recent Cabinet reshuffle, did not speak to the process for improving agricultural output and neglected also to offer an update on the legal issues that have stymied efforts to wind up COSPROD (Correctional Services Production Company, and divest its operations to the Department of Correctional Services. A policy decision to this effect was taken about a year ago and should have been completed by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year last month.

A statutory limited-liability company established in 1994 with the mandate to develop the farms within the correctional services, primarily the Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St Mary, Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre, St Catherine, and the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre (Brickyard) in Kingston, COSPROD had achieved tremendous success in reducing taxpayers' contribution to the food bill for prisoners.

COSPROD had also played an integral role in the rehabilitation of inmates, with skills learnt a key addition to their rÈsumÈs upon re-entry into the society.

The crops and other produce at all three locations were sold at low costs to the Department of Correctional Services and the surplus sold to staff members and outside markets. Projects included animal husbandry (pig, sheep), crop production (vegetable, orchard, tree crop), poultry rearing (layer and broiler meat rearing).

However, since the decision to wind up COSPROD, livestock and crop production has been scaled down significantly at all institutions, pending resolution of the legal transfer tangle.

Efforts by The Gleaner yesterday to reach Spencer for clarity on this matter proved futile, as his secretary advised that she had given him a message and phone calls to his cell number went unanswered.