Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Everglades, farmers squabble over Long Pond lands

Published:Thursday | September 17, 2020 | 12:17 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer
Everglades CEO Andrew Hussey.
Everglades CEO Andrew Hussey.

Everglades Farms, the Hussey-owned operator of Long Pond and Hampden sugar estates, has locked horns with the All Island Cane Farmers Association (AICFA) over the latter’s move to lease parcels of former sugar cane lands to small farmers.

With the closure of the Long Pond factory, sugar cane cultivation has ceased on large swathes of land in the northern parish.

Last December, then Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw announced that 3,500 acres of former Long Pond lands would be leased to small farmers.

AICFA Chairman Nigel Myrie told The Gleaner that Everglades lost its right to the lands when it closed the Long Pond factory.

“That closure cost Government $350 million over five years to transport Trelawny farmers’ cane to Worthy Park and Appleton Estates. In the process, Clark’s Town and its environs suffered economically,” he said.

Some farmers, including Noel Grant, are now complaining that they are being harassed by an Everglades agent to vacate the property or have their crops destroyed.

Grant, who has leased land at Vale Royal, told The Gleaner: “I have been personally threatened ... to cease cultivating or face destruction of my crops.”

Myrie charged that the company was “seeking to displace and disrupt the activities of farmers who have legitimate authority to farm the land they have leased”, adding that the AICFA was trying to reach an amicable solution with Everglades.

“AICFA will be standing by the farmers because they are not squatters,” he added, revealing that some 2,000 acres of the land have been leased.

“ ... The whole project is an economic activity to help provide some form of livelihood for farmers who lost out when the factory was closed,” said Myrie.

When contacted, Everglades CEO Andrew Hussey dismissed claims that his company no longer had rights to the land.

“We have leased the lands for 50 years. There is not an agreed separation plan between ourselves and the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ). Essentially, we have another 39 years lease on the land as of now,” he told The Gleaner.

He further disclosed that there has been an agreement between SCJ and Everglades that at the completion of the agreement, Everglades would keep 200 hectares.

“[The] All Island Cane Farmers Association has no authority to lease lands. There has been no survey to establish boundaries. Our lawyers have written to Mr Nigel Myrie ... on the subject of the leasing of the land,” Hussey continued.

“We are disputing two pieces of land ... in that section which falls into the 200 hectares we expressed the intention to keep. ... Until a survey has been conducted to establish boundaries and a separation plan has been agreed on, we own the land.”