Clark’s Town looking to rebound after sugar
Four years after the economy of Clark’s Town, Trelawny, went into a troublesome tailspin when the Long Pond Factory, which was the lifeblood of the community, ceased operation, the community is poised for a rebound, thanks to some 3,600 acres of former sugar lands being converted into farmlands for other produce.
This new initiative was sparked by a decision by the Sugar Company of Jamaica to lease parcels of land to farmers and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to help the farmers to develop business plans and to select the ideal crops to match the soil type in the area.
“We started with Organic Growth Holdings leasing 635 acres for the planting of hemp to produce CBD oil for export. It is a foreign-exchange earner and 30 people in and around Jackson Town found steady employment,” said Nigel Myrie, the chairman of RADA, who has played an integral part in the process of guiding start-up entrepreneurs.
“The lands have been leased to over 100 persons who have now become entrepreneurs. They are planting crops like sweet potato for the local and export markets. Employment is generated for tractor operators and people to plant and care for crops,” added Myrie.
First-time farmer Nadeen Allen said she is encouraged by the progress she has made so far and is looking to make farming a long-term occupation.
“At first, I saw it as a means to earn a little extra by planting sweet potato and carrots. I then did some research on what Jamaica needs and I found that pimento, as a spice, is among the best produced anywhere. Hence I decided to plant pimento,” Allen told The Gleaner.
Like the farmers, Agriculture Minister Floyd Green said he is encouraged by what is happening and described the project as “excellent”.
“I am very happy to see that these farmers are moving into innovative areas,” said Green. “This is what we need. These people have legitimate claims to the lands. It is now for the banking sector to provide low-cost capital and for them to expand even further,” said Green. Residents in Clark’s Town, who looked on helplessly as shops and supermarkets gradually closed as the economic toll took effect on the community when the sugar factory closed, are now optimistic that the new farming initiative will restore buoyancy to the community.
“Long Pond was the hub of the Clark’s Town economy for several decades. Every aspect of life, be it sports, commerce and even entertainment, revolved around sugar and sugar-related businesses,” said former sugar worker Byron Smith.
“Let’s hope that the farming of the various crops, some of which will have a ready market in the tourist sector, will be able to restore the community to what it was before the factory closed,” Green said.