The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining has been tasked with identifying orchard crops that can be grown on lands in southern Clarendon that are owned by the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) that are not currently under cultivation.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the disclosure while addressing residents during a brief tour of the area on Wednesday.
He pointed out that more than 20,000 acres of land owned by SCJ is not being used by the entity.
The prime minister said these were previously used for sugarcane cultivation before the closure of several factories, resulting in loss of employment for some residents in the surrounding communities.
He advised that the solution being considered is to “look for other [agricultural] uses for the lands”.
Holness told the residents that the lands have started to show lower yields due to saline intrusion. This has resulted from seawater seepage into the water table serving the lands, which has affected their ability to yield specific types of crops.
“There are other crops that can still grow well on these lands. So, the minister of agriculture has been tasked to identify those crops, particularly orchard crops, and develop them in this area,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, a team from the University of the West Indies (UWI) is also engaged in the Blue Carbon Restoration in Southern Clarendon Project. This initiative is designed to replenish more than 1,000 hectares of degraded mangrove forests, which will act as a barrier against saline intrusion.
In the meantime, Holness is encouraging unattached youth in the surrounding communities to engage in skills training through the HEART/NSTA Trust, in order to tap into future employment opportunities. He advised that they can attain certification free of cost for courses up to level four (associate degree).
Holness further advised that additional initiatives to attract unattached youth into the labour force are currently being developed.