Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Agro-Investment Corporation, Sylburn Thomas, is urging Jamaicans to exploit the investment opportunities now available at the Government’s agro-parks islandwide.
“Our view is that you should invest in the agro-parks. We believe if we can consolidate the entire value chain in a physical location (like these), we can minimize the risks (of theft), we can do more from synergy and knowledge sharing (and) we can do more from efficiencies and scale economics,” the CEO said.
He was speaking at an agricultural information forum hosted by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew on March 13.
Mr. Thomas said the agro-parks concept is designed to facilitate investments by a wide cross-section of stakeholders, with food industry interests and suppliers among those targeted.
“It physically covers the factor market players on the input side, and the product market players on the demand side, as well as the investors… that’s the unique feature of an agro-park. (Additionally, they are equipped with key) features such as irrigation and drainage infrastructure, (so) they can be more efficient,” he informed.
Mr. Thomas said agro-parks which are currently available for additional investments include: Spring Plain with 943 acres of arable land, and Ebony Park which has 1,197 acres, both of which are situated in Clarendon; and Elim, St. Elizabeth, which has 2,000 acres for aquaculture.
He argued that consequent on the unpredictability of climate change and weather patterns, agro-parks are safe investments options, as the administrators offer support and are able to adapt quickly to environmental changes in order to provide the appropriate and relevant interventions. “(With) climate variability, climate change and global warming, we have to be smart about how we invest in agriculture. Here (in the agro-parks), we have laid down proper drainage infrastructure (and are prepared for) adverse weather (such as heavy) rainfall. We are not as adversely exposed, and where we have a drought, we have irrigation infrastructure (in place to mitigate the effects of this). So these are the more (suitable) lands for (farming),” the CEO stated.
Mr. Thomas also highlighted the quality management system in place to facilitate technical on-site support.
This includes extension services provided by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority; and irrigation facilitation by the National Irrigation Commission.
Stakeholders support is also provided by the Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry’s Resource Department, as well as the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry.
Meanwhile, Mr. Thomas is assuring that the Government will provide support to persons or entities investing in agro-parks.
“We have business facilitation and market linkages, investment officers, cluster coordinators, marketing managers and investment officers. We interface right across Government and private companies to provide (support) services,” he informed.
Mr. Thomas also advised that a collective approach is being employed to curtail the incidence of praedial larceny.
The approach (that) we believe is, at this point, feasible is the shared approach, which we are now experimenting (with) at Spring Plain, where we allow the security cost to be shared by all the participants according to the (amount of) acres being (cultivated),” he explained.
Additionally, Mr. Thomas said surveillance technology is being used in the agro-parks as well as manual monitoring of the farms by security personnel.
The Agro Investment Corporation is an investment facilitation, advisory and management company that functions as the business facilitation department within the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.