Thu | Jul 9, 2020

Denbigh can be a critical link for south coast – Fulton

Published:Sunday | July 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju - Gleaner Writer
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw (second left) pets a calf on display during the 64th Hague Agricultural Show in Trelawny in March. With the minister (from left) are: President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Lenworth Fulton; Councillor Collen Gager, mayor of Falmouth; and Paul Muschett, custos of Trelawny.

If president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Lenworth Fulton has his way, the Denbigh showground in Clarendon will be a critical link in the overall development plan for the island’s southern corridor, incorporating the planned Global Logistics Hub and Special Economic Zone.

Fulton told farmers at the 124th annual general meeting that the decision to create a modern, efficient agro-processing hub at Denbigh dovetails with Government’s planned Aeropolis Development at Vernamfield in the parish. From this vantage point, aquaculture and horticulture produce could reach world markets within 24 hours.

He explained the implications: “Shrimp, yam or any other product could be loaded on to a cargo aircraft at Denbigh today and be gracing tables in Japan or Germany tomorrow, giving you a greater opportunity to supply produce at competitive prices. The planned development at Vernamfield would allow us to reach 1.6 billion consumers worldwide.”

Fulton went on to point out that it made sense to have another departure point from Jamaica, since the three international airports could be threatened by climate change in the very near future. He said Sangster International in Montego Bay, St James; the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston; and Ian Fleming International Airport in Oracabessa, St Mary, could be affected by flooding or sea level rise.

In fact, Fulton referenced a 2013 climate departure article by Max Fisher in which he claims that Kingston is projected to reach its tipping point by 2023, when it will be vulnerable to flooding.

Here is an excerpt from that article:

“Lagos, Africa’s largest city, with a population 21 million and rising, is already vulnerable to flooding. It’s got only 16 years before it hits climate departure. Also vulnerable are Caribbean cities such as Kingston, Jamaica, which passes the tipping point in 2023.

The good news is that, while it’s too late to stop the world or any of its cities from passing the point of climate departure, we can slow the process – and thus significantly mitigate the effects of climate change.

The world average, in this hypothetical version, would pass climate departure in 2069. DC would pass it in 2071. As a sign of how deeply the climate is already changing, though, Kingston would still hit it in 2028 – a delay of only five years.”

LOBBYING FOR RAIL SYSTEM

It therefore makes sense to develop another air cargo hub, Fulton argued.

Twinned to that would be revival of the rail system, which could again be used to transport agricultural produce in large volumes. The rail line passes through the town of Denbigh and would link such high-producing parishes as Manchester, St Elizabeth and Clarendon.

“We are therefore lobbying strongly for the rail system and the removal from our roads of heavy trucks, and also for farmers to enjoy the benefits of lower transportation costs,” the JAS president said in supporting the initiative.

He advised farmers that the twin-pronged transformation and development plan for the Denbigh showground had already begun, with securing the showground and converting one section into a combination agricultural industrial/educational scientific park.

“We have begun the transformation with an ackee processing plant and Jamaica Drip (Isratech) is establishing a permanent office on the property, with other businesses to follow suit,” he said.

Discussions are also well advanced regarding the re-establishment of an agro-hub at the old AMC complex at 188 Spanish Town Road and farmers’ markets at the Hague showground in Trelawny, Montpelier showground in St James, and Denbigh property.

“Already, there is a potential investor who had a plan to build out a massive farmers’ market to supply not only his business in Jamaica but also to explore export opportunities to the region such as Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic and Florida,” he advised.

Fulton also spoke of his plans for bright, young minds to lead the renaissance in agriculture.

“Shortly, we will be launching the Future Farmers Association to better attract that age cohort among our farmers, a very important group, especially in terms of our drive to make farming more tech-savvy and tech-friendly and to better prepare for the coming ravages of climate change which, need I remind you, is real and imminent,” Fulton stated.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com