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Massive investments lined up for Bernard Lodge - Vaz pleads for cooperation

Published:Saturday | December 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMLynford Simpson

An Israeli-led project worth US$5 million (J$625 million), the country's first bamboo factory with an investment of $130 million and the expansion of Caribbean Broilers' Imagination Farms, are some of the major agricultural projects already approved for the planned Greater Bernard Lodge development.

The update was provided last week by Joseph Shoucair, chairman of the enterprise team that has been tasked with reviewing and implementing the master plan for the new township to be built at Bernard Lodge in Portmore, St Catherine.

In introducing Shoucair, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz said that state agencies, including the National Housing Trust, will provide part financing for the development, with more money to come from other areas, including the lease of the land.

Vaz called for full cooperation as he promised that all stakeholders will be included in the planning of the project.

Also aware that the development has stoked controversy, especially as it relates to the use of agricultural lands, Shoucair told journalists that at least 50 per cent of the project is reserved for agriculture-related ventures.

"While we start on the journey to create this model community which we hope will be a prototype for future developments in the country, in my capacity of SCJ (Sugar Company of Jamaica) chairman, I can tell you that we will not be idle with the Government's agriculture lands," said Shoucair.

He declared that the enterprise team has already received project proposals, "many of which have been accepted".

These include one for the expansion of Caribbean Broilers' Imagination Farms at Hill Run by some 1,330 acres.

According to Shoucair, Caribbean Broilers is looking to establish a food processing facility and will also significantly increase its acreage for several crops.

He said the Israeli investor will be doing a "high-tech agricultural development at Innswood", while the Government is favourably considering the construction of one of the first bamboo factories in the Western Hemisphere in the development area.

Among other things, the factory will produce bathroom and toilet tissue, napkins, facial tissues and diapers.

Shoucair revealed that ground will be broken for the factory in the second quarter of 2019.

"In case it is thought that the master plan is entirely a development master plan for housing and factories, etc, half of the master plan is dedicated to agricultural activities," Shoucair stressed.


2015 land sale


Vaz told journalists that the project came about because of the sale in 2015 of some 356 acres of agricultural lands to a private developer by the then government for some 2,000 housing units, without the requisite infrastructure being put in place.

He said with the new JLP administration having to put the infrastructure in place to facilitate the development, it subsequently took the decision to develop a master plan for the area rather than continue selling other parcels of land piecemeal.

"I only know how to talk one way, and that is straight, the hypocrisy is what I can't deal with. We need to put aside the politics so that we can get progress and prosperity for every single Jamaican throughout the length and breadth of Jamaica, and that is what this minister and this Government is intent on doing," said Vaz.

Both the Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Fitz Jackson and Portmore's Mayor Leon Thomas have expressed concern about the development.

Their primary concerns relate to the inadequacy of the infrastructure including water, roads and sewerage to support the development, and the use of prime agriculture lands for housing.

They are also concerned about the likely negative impact on the existing Portmore and the apparent change of course by the National Environment and Planning Agency in approving the master plan for the development.