Kingston, Jamaica:– The Cabinet today received a preliminary briefing from Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited (SCJ) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), on media reports that agricultural lands in Innswood, St Catherine will be used for housing development.
While the Cabinet will get further briefings, the following facts have been established:
- Model Agricultural Production Limited, which is a company associated with Mr Michael Lee-Chin, is in possession of a lease for lands in Innswood, St Catherine.
- A portion of the leased lands is currently being utilized for agricultural production.
- Other entities associated with Mr. Lee Chin have expressed an interest in purchasing a portion of the lands (the subject of the lease mentioned above) and have advised that they wish to use those portions of land for housing. The conditions of the lease restrict the use of the lands for agricultural purposes only.
- There has been no sale of the Innswood lands and the Government has not made any decision to sell the lands in question.
The Government is extremely sensitive to competing demands for scarce land resources for housing and agriculture. The Cabinet noted that there are established laws, policies and procedures to transparently deal with the sale and development of Government lands. The Cabinet reaffirmed that the established processes will be strictly followed in this matter.
While Government is committed to building out affordable housing for the Jamaican people, this will not be at the expense of agriculture. The Government has been very active in promoting agriculture, particularly large scale, technology based agricultural production. It should be noted that since last year the National Land Agency has turned over more than 9,000 acres of land to the Ministry of Agriculture to add to their agricultural land bank.
Both SCJ and NEPA have been asked to follow up the briefing with a detailed report on the Innswood lands, proposed and ongoing developments in the area, agricultural prospects and plans, and all other pertinent information to assist Cabinet in making the best decisions about the use of public assets in the national interest.