Green orders report on status of SCJ leases
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green has given SCJ Holdings Limited until the end of November to provide a report on the status of the lease arrangements of all land over which it has jurisdiction.
Thereafter, he will decide on a course of action in respect of people who have been farming on lands owned by the SCJ, whether legally or illegally.
This disclosure came during Wednesday’s tour of farms in Hartland, St Catherine, where he got a first-hand look at the devastation to pepper and sorrel production as well as a tour of fish farms that were affected by recent heavy rains.
The farmers, who admitted that they were occupying former sugar lands illegally, told The Gleaner that they were unable to expand their operations since they have been unable to invest in infrastructural improvements. They also have not been able to use the land as collateral, which continues to hamstring their efforts at expansion.
“I have asked the SCJ to give me full report into all the land under its jurisdiction and what is the status of the leases, status of production, and once I get that report, I am going to take some action. I expect to get that report before the end of November,” Green declared.
“We want to accelerate that programme of putting small farmers in possession of government land for agriculture.”
That was music to the ears of farmers Horace Williams and Clive Jarrett, who have been farming for more than 10 years on land on which cane was once cultivated. Both men had reaped some sorrel and were awaiting the minister’s arrival to plead their cases.
Jarrett admitted that he had been evicted from land owned by the SCJ once before and had since moved on to another section of land for the same owner. This has really hurt his efforts to expand operations since he cannot access water from the National Irrigation Commission, which has insisted on legal tenure to the land before it will engage in doing business with farmers.
The access roads to these farmlands are also in a deplorable condition.
“If me nuh get nutten else and we get the road, me woulda feel good because then me can ride all me bicycle go there if me have a good road. You nuh see a push me haffi push this?” he said, pointing to his bicycle laden with a feed bag of freshly reaped sorrel.