Mon | Oct 18, 2021

Opposition wants gov’t to rethink using prime sugar lands for housing

Published:Wednesday | April 21, 2021 | 9:56 AM
The Opposition wants the Government to consider other solutions instead of using fertile agricultural lands for housing developments.

Sophia Frazer Binns, the Opposition Spokesperson on Land, is calling for the Government to rethink plans to use existing sugar lands in Trelawny for housing.

Frazer Binns is arguing that food security must be central to any decision made about the use of prime agricultural lands.

It was recently disclosed that the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) has been allocated land at the former Long Pond Sugar Factory in Trelawny that is to be used to construct 800 low-income houses.

The 30,000 acres of idle sugar lands are being divided up to be given to different entities with the HAJ getting 148 acres at Panarsus.

READ: HAJ to build 800 low-income houses at Long Pond

The Opposition wants the Government to consider other solutions instead of using fertile agricultural lands for housing developments.

“The lands being designated by the Government for housing developments comprise some of Jamaica’s best for food production. These lands are essential to any strategy to ensure that Jamaica can successfully navigate major crises such as the currently evolving COVID-19 pandemic,” said Frazer Binns in a statement.

The opposition spokesperson is urging the Government to be more deliberate in its land use policy, in the face of the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address issues of food insecurity among the Jamaican people, and a conscientious Government must use data to guide decisions around the distribution of agricultural lands. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and has spurred economic fallout which strengthens our call for the prioritisation of food production.”

Frazer Binns argued that Jamaica's imports for January to September 2019 were valued at US$4,816.5 million, an increase of 6.5 percent when compared to what was spent for the similar period in 2018.

This, she said, according to the International Merchandise Trade (IMT) Bulletin released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), which indicated that the food import bill was one of the primary commodities that contributed to the increase.

“If agriculture accounts for only 6.6 percent of our GDP, we have the opportunity to grow the industry and protect our environment by doing so in a sustainable way,” Frazer Binns contended.

She said that the Opposition strongly supports the need for increased access to affordable housing, but wants Jamaica to do so  without affecting the country’s capacity to produce its own food.

She added that the Opposition remains committed to engaging in discussions with the Government on the best ways to mitigate food insecurity, and to explore housing solutions on less arable lands.

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