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Agro-parks not Ja's saviour - Hutchinson

Published:Thursday | August 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
In this file photo a worker protects her face from the broiling sun on one of the farms in Heartease which forms part of the Yallahs Agro Park in St Thomas.
J.C. Hutchinson

William J.C. Hutchinson, the Member of Parliament for North West St Elizabeth, on Tuesday discounted the role of agro-parks as the centrepiece of the national drive to boost the country's agriculture output by way of increased productivity and production.

"You hear about the big agro-parks and they are the ones that are going to be the salvation of this country, nutten nuh go suh!" the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries told some 30 farmers from Kingston and St Andrew.

"Agriculture has been growing many years without agro-parks, and you the small farmers are the ones who have been growing agriculture without agro-parks. What needs to be done is for you to get a little more help, a little more boost, so that you can get it going much better than it is at this point in time," Hutchinson declared, to much applause from the farmers drawn from six Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) extension areas.

Instead, the veteran politician said small farmers would begin to benefit from his administration's investment in the country's first Agro-Economic Zone by next year, which would result in an integrated system for the marketing, harvesting, grading and processing of farm produce in a seamless process. However, the minister opted to keep plans for the new initiative close to his chest.

"I won't tell you where, but we have one that we are looking government/private partnership that is going to be doing, one and we have a private investor who is looking to do one the eastern section of this island," were all the details he provided. In addition, Hutchinson did not say what would now become of the agro-parks in which the previous administration had invested hundreds of millions of dollars. Neither did he explain the differences between the two large-scale cultivation processes.