Long Pond sugar lands dispute settled - Farmers get 3,600 acres, Everglades gets 200 acres
The bitter dispute between the 150 farmers occupying former sugar lands in Long Pond, Trelawny, and Everglades Farm Limited, which has had a longstanding lease on the properties, has fizzled following the intervention of Agriculture Minister Floyd Green.
With the dispute between the farmers, who were granted access to 3,600 acres of land via a deal brokered between the All-Island Cane Farmers Association (AICFA) and Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings (SCJH), and Everglades Farm Limited, which entered into a 50-year lease for the factory and surrounding lands now over, there should be no further issues going forward.
“Both parties met in a meeting with Agriculture Minister Floyd Green. At the end of the meeting, an amicable working arrangement was arrived at,” said Nigel Myrie, chairman of AICFA. “The farmers, who had leased lands and watched as security agents of Everglades Farms destroyed their fencing recently, can now go about using the land which they leased without interference.”
Arising out of the meeting, instead of the entire property, Everglades Farm Limited has been left with 200 acres of lands to do whatever type of farming they might be desirous of doing.
Myrie said out of the settlement that has been arrived at, 60 acres of the property has been set aside for the use of rural women and youth.
“Some women have leased some acreages and are into planting a variety of crops. There is a need now to identify youngsters who are interested in farming so that they, too, can lease land on which to farm,” said Myrie.
Female farmer Pauline Robinson of Clarks Town, the community where the vast majority of the property is located, is pleased that a settlement has been arrived at and is now looking forward to making the best use of the five acres that she has leased.
FIVE ACRES OF LAND
“I leased five acres of the land and have planted a variety of crops,” said Robinson. “I have planted hot and sweet peppers and onions on one section, and I have put in some strawberries on another section. The plan is to put in a larger plot of strawberries next time around.”
Now that they have the security of tenure they needed to occupy and use the lands, Myrie is encouraging farmers to start making full use of the lands and not just to hold the lands in the hope that they will ultimately be sold to them.
“No one will be allowed to hang on to the land with hopes of getting it to buy. It is strictly for leasing for farming purposes,” said Myrie.
Prior to Green’s intervention, the dispute looked all set to get out of control when agents aligned to Everglades Farms Limited moved unto some of the lands leased to the farmers and tried to reclaim them. In some cases, the agents erected ‘No trespassing’ signs.
At the time, Andrew Hussey, a top executive of Everglades Farms, said they considered themselves the rightful occupiers of the property based on their lease with the Government, which they considered to be intact.
“We have a 50-year lease of the lands, 39 of which are still outstanding,” Hussey told The Gleaner. “There has been no separation plan between ourselves and SCJH. Until a survey has been conducted to establish boundaries and a separation plan has been agreed on, we still own the land.”