Jackson says the best farmlands must remain in agriculture
Member of Parliament for South St Catherine and chairman of the People’s National Party (PNP) Fitz Jackson, is stating categorically that lands leased by joint venture company Celestial Farms, from Sugar Company Holdings (SCJ) three months ago, is not in conflict with his stated opposition to the use of prime agricultural lands in Bernard Lodge for housing and commercial activities.
Mr. Jackson's opposition to removing large portions of the Bernard Lodge farmlands into housing and commercial development dates back three years ago when the Government’s intention became known. This is in keeping with opinions from senior planners, water resource experts, including the former Managing Director of the Water Resources Authority.
Celestial Farms, of which Mr. Jackson is a director, sought from SCJ twenty acres of land for agricultural activities. Initially, SCJ identified an area that falls within his South St Catherine constituency.
This, Mr. Jackson rejected, in keeping with his longstanding position not to contract with Government for any commercial activity within the constituency he represents.
An alternate offer was made by SCJ for lands in Innswood, which the company accepted, but this was later withdrawn by SCJ on the grounds that those lands would be affected by another development project. SCJ Holdings then proposed farm lands in Bernard Lodge, outside of his constituency and the proposed Bernard Lodge new town development. In keeping with his knowledge that the Bernard Lodge area is prime agricultural lands, the company accepted the new proposed location.
Jackson said that he sought and obtained the required exemptions from Parliament and he ensured that all the transactions were above board.
“I have been defending the small farmers and their right to remain on the lands for some time. I will continue to argue for the farmers who are there and push to keep our best arable lands in agriculture. This responsibility to the affected persons I will not resile from. What is important is that the best farmlands remain in agricultural production. This is what I have been arguing and this is what I stand for.” Jackson said.
He said it is not surprising that this issue is being used to distract from the hardships unleashed on the Jamaican people by the government focused on optics.
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