Mon | Jul 6, 2020

Revamp divestment policy for old sugar lands, says PNP’s Wright

Published:Wednesday | November 20, 2019 | 12:50 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

The absence of a clear government policy in relation to the appropriation of former sugar cane lands in Trelawny is being met with consternation by soil scientist and member of parliament for Trelawny North, Victor Wright.

Speaking at a luncheon of the All-Island Chambers of Commerce at the Falmouth Cruise Pier in Trelawny last Saturday, Wright said that the process of gaining access to arable Crown lands was highly informal, even though that should not be the case. He has called for the application and acquisition procedure to be restructured and clear guidelines implemented.

“We’re talking about 10,600 acres of land. That’s a lot of land that will open up Trelawny for development. But as it stands, while we have the ganja farms and other farms, there is no clear path that I could guide any of you that you should take to get access to those lands,” Wright lamented.

“... As we know it now, it is a very informal and unstructured way, where you write a letter to SCJ (Sugar Company of Jamaica) Holdings and you hope that you get a response, or, if you ask someone to speak on your behalf, you probably get a response. That is not the way for development, and that is not the way I would like to see the lands in this constituency develop,” the agronomist said.

SEIZE OPPORTUNITY

In April, Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw urged farmers in Trelawny to seize the opportunity to access the remaining 13,000 acres of former sugar cane lands in the parish that were up for divestment.

The call had followed the minister’s announcement in November 2018 that Trelawny was among three parishes where lands had been identified for divestment in the first phase of a plan by the Government to put thousands of idle lands into production by diversifying into other areas such as Sea Island cotton, castor beans, mangoes, and bamboo.

However, on Saturday, Wright said that the media appear to be the only channel by which information can be sourced by interested persons on the various ways in which the land can be accessed, and that this should not be the case.

“One of the things you have to do is that you have to direct investors in the right direction, and directing them in the right direction means you would have clear policies by which they can feel equal in acquiring these opportunities,” Wright stated.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com