Jamaica could save billions of dollars spent to import food when the planned Lakes Pen Agri Ventures is fully operational.

The country now spends an average of US$850 million to US$1 billion each year to import food but Gassan Azan, the point man for the 400-acre development planned for the Lakes Pen area of Bernard Lodge lands in St Catherine, says this could be reduced significantly when the high-tech agricultural park is up and running.

“When you look at the numbers, how they stack up, this [development] will produce 17,000 tons each year and we import 40,000 tons; you can see that this is an approximate 40 per cent reduction in the import bill if we hit our target,” Azan declared during the official launch of the project yesterday.

“If we even miss our target by half it is still a substantial reduction in the import bill which gives you that level of, not only food security, but also financial security in your reserves. So there is significant benefit to this project from that standpoint without even adding the job scenario into that. That is just raw production numbers,” added Azan.

According to Azan, he has long felt that Jamaica should take steps to move away from importing vegetables and grow as much as the country needs.

“We want all stakeholders to come on board and be a part of this process which will change the landscape in agricultural production and distribution in Jamaica,” declared Azan.

The state-of-the-art agricultural development will cost $11 billion to be established over two phases and will directly employ 1,000 people in phase one and an additional 350 in phase two.

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