Well-known businessman Peter McConnell has issued an urgent appeal to the Government to reconsider a decision made by the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration to construct a logistics centre on prime lands that form part of the Caymanas strip in St Catherine on which he currently cultivates sugar cane.
"I am making an appeal to this Government to correct the wrongs of the previous Government and move the logistics centre to the south side of the highway at Caymanas," said McConnell.
"Why the (then) Government decided to put it there is baffling …
McConnell, the managing director of Trade Winds Citrus Limited, maintained that the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, under the responsibility of the then Karl Samuda-led Ministry of Investment and Commerce, could have targeted nearby lands which are more suitable for such a facility.
OPPOSED TO PLANS
McConnell contended that he strenuously opposed the proposal that was outlined by Samuda for the establishment of the investment facility at Caymanas. That included the construction of a 40-acre informatics park as the Government sought to expand facilities for information and communication technologies.
But McConnell said he would have none of it - not on prime agricultural lands.
The proposed logistics centre was the brainchild of the Bruce Golding administration, but the implementation project was frequently delayed, preventing that Government from starting it before its tenure ran out in 2011. "It was a decision that was made without giving any thought to the destruction of first-rate agricultural lands."
McConnell complained that he was not formally consulted about the plans even when he was given notice to vacate the 200 acres of land which his company had leased from the Urban Development Corporation to grow sugar cane.
He contended that more than 500 acres of land are lying in proximity to the area earmarked for the project.
He disclosed that his company has been operating as Worthy Park Sugar Estates for in excess of four years. "Without that land, it puts Worthy Park's entire viability at risk if we lose it," warned McConnell.
He said Caymanas is currently producing revenues of about J$240 million on an annual basis. "And it is foreign exchange in the amount of approximately US$2.5 million," said McConnell. "That is what they are asking the country to give up to put into concrete when there are idle lands that they can go and use … . The whole thing is a no-brainer."
According to McConnell, he was asked to get off the lands three years ago, a decision which, if followed, would have been devastating for his business. "I would have lost the production for those three to four years, and up to now, nothing has happened," he said.