Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Agro-Invest pushing for more investments in June

Published:Tuesday | May 28, 2024 | 12:05 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Chief executive officer of the Agro-Invest Corporation Vivion Scully shows off some of the crops harvested from agroparks across Jamaica, while manning the agency’s booth at Saturday’s annual agricultural, industrial and food show of the Kingston and S
Chief executive officer of the Agro-Invest Corporation Vivion Scully shows off some of the crops harvested from agroparks across Jamaica, while manning the agency’s booth at Saturday’s annual agricultural, industrial and food show of the Kingston and St Andrew Association of Branch Societies of the Jamaica Agricultural Society on the grounds of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Mining at Hope Gardens. He also used the opportunity to provide an update on the upcoming applications for investors across three agroparks in St Catherine and Clarendon, which open in June.

Come June, applications will open for investors to access 795 hectares (19,000 acres of land for lease, across three agroparks in St Catherine and Clarendon, under the Southern Plains Agricultural Development of 5- to 24-acre plots, for diverse agricultural projects. The land is available at Amity Hall and Ridge Pen in St Catherine, as well as Parnassus in Clarendon, with 25 per cent of that acreage being set aside for youth, women and persons with disabilities.

On Saturday, when The Gleaner caught up with chief executive officer of the Agro-Invest Corporation, Vivion Scully, during the annual agricultural, industrial and food show, he spoke to some of the incentives that would make investment attractive. These include excellent irrigation systems and access to established roadworks, with the land suitable for orchard crops such as mangoes, breadfruit, ackee and avocado, as well as cash crops.

“It’s fully irrigated and is the largest release of land in one go by Agro-Invest. We are looking forward to applications from investors right now and the lands will be ready towards the end of the year. The interesting thing about these opportunities is that once you are approved, you can get a matching grant from $250,000 up to $1.2 million,” the CEO disclosed.

Scully went on to explain that the grants will be matched against the financial outlay of the investors in terms of the money spent on lease for the land, irrigation infrastructure, labour and other expenditure.

Agro-Invest operates eight agroparks spread across 13 production zones and production has been on the rise over the past five years. Scully explained that is due in large measure to the ongoing support provided by the agency through the introduction of new and emerging technology, as well as the steady and consistent technical support from its team of agronomists who work with the investors. Over this period, climate change in general and the ongoing global heatwave in particular, has been throwing up some harsh lessons and Agro-Invest has been taking note, Scully added.

“In anticipation of the growing impact that climate change is likely to have on domestic agriculture, we are also retrofitting a number of greenhouses, also on the agroparks, so that we can maintain production in times when the temperature gets warmer. We have seen that already some crops are not doing well in the heat. We noticed throughout last year that a number of the pepper producers, their production was slightly down and we think this was due to the ongoing heatwave. Tomatoes, lettuce – those crops are having a challenge as the time gets hotter.”

The ongoing drive to achieve greater levels of food security and nutrition is achievable, according to Scully who pointed to the fact that local farmers did an excellent job of feeding the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the fallout in cargo shipments negatively impacted availability of foreign foods.

“We have seen evidence of that during COVID, where despite the slowdown in food imports, Jamaican farmers drilled down and provided consistent food supply throughout that period. So programmes like these will go a long way in ensuring that we have resilience in and continuity of our food supply. Also, we have seen where local fast-food chains are sourcing a lot of their supplies from Jamaican farmers.”

Encouraged by these developments, Agro-Invest is looking at other ways to attract new investments in food production.

“Our goal is to continue to increase the acreage under cultivation and we just acquired eleven hundred acres in the Hinds Town area of St Ann and we are also working on a new agropark in collaboration with Jamaica Bauxite Mining Limited which is also going to be in St Ann,” Scully disclosed.

The annual agricultural, industrial and food show was hosted by the Kingston and St Andrew Association of Branch Societies of the Jamaica Agricultural Society on the grounds of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Mining at Hope Gardens.

editorial@gleanerjm.com

Applications should be made to Agro-Invest Corporation, AMC Complex, 188 Spanish Town Road, Kingston 11. Persons interested in finding out more may call 876-923-0086/876-923-7428 or by emailing info@agroinvest.gov.jm The project is supported by the UK Caribbean Infrastructure Development Fund, as well as the Caribbean Development Bank.