Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Robert Montague is assisted by Judith Hunt, manager of Caribbean Egg Producers (a subsidiary of Caribbean Producers), in labelling a 1.83-kilogram bottle of liquefied eggs while on tour of the plant on Monday. – Photo by Barrington Flemming
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Robert Montague says the ministry will be moving shortly to revoke a number of leases for lands which are not being utilised by the lessees and put them into agricultural production.
Montague, who was speaking following a tour of Caribbean Producers Jamaica in Montego Bay, St James, on Monday, said the ministry was intent on reducing the country’s import bill for Irish potatoes and onions which wrack up a massive $3 billion annually.
“We want to go through the legal and court process (and) take back some of those leases, because if you have the land and you are not utilising them, we are going to take them back and give it to persons who have an interest in production.”
Montague said the ministry was hoping to acquire additional lands to begin mass cultivation of Irish potatoes and onions, for which the Government has already reached an agreement with the People’s Cooperative Bank and the Development Bank of Jamaica to provide loans at a rate of six per cent for farmers who are going to cultivate those crops.
He also indicated that the ministry had already secured a ready market for additional onions and Irish potatoes.
“The distributors and some of the importers of these items are willing to sign contracts with the farmers to supply them. We are also looking and speaking with Christiana Potatoes to get into the production of seed potatoes as well,” Montague said.
The minister also indicated that the tour was part of his mandate to visit processing facilities across the island, to consult with thems and to forge a partnership which would allow the operators of the facilities to gain easier access to some of the incentives the ministry offers.
Speaking specifically about Caribbean Producers, Montague said the tour was basically to give the company the stamp of approval to indicate to farmers that there was an outlet for juice and eggs.
Caribbean Producers Jamaica, which is widely known as a purveyor of wines and spirits, also operates Caribbean Egg Producers, which is a pasteurisation plant for liquefied eggs, and Cariburst, a line of fruit concentrates.