Fri | Nov 27, 2020

Gov’t fast-tracking divestment of AMC complex

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2020 | 12:26 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Farmer Gary Coulton (left) breaks open a ripe West Indian red pepper to allow Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw to get a good sniff duirng a tour of his farm on the Springffield Agro-Park in Clarendon. General manager of GK Foods & Services – Grace Agro P
Farmer Gary Coulton (left) breaks open a ripe West Indian red pepper to allow Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw to get a good sniff duirng a tour of his farm on the Springffield Agro-Park in Clarendon. General manager of GK Foods & Services – Grace Agro Processors, Maureen Denton, keeps a safe distance away.

The Government is fast-tracking plans to divest the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC) complex at 188 Spanish Town Road in Kingston on condition that investors convert it into a state-of-the-art agro-processing facility, with Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw projecting that work to this effect will get under way before year end.

Shaw made the disclosure while touring a section of the Spring Plain Agro-Park in Clarendon last Friday as the first batch of West Indian red peppers from the farm of Gary Coulton was being packed for transportation to GK Foods’ agro-processing facility in Hounslow, St Elizabeth.

The agriculture minister explained that any divestment would be done in partnership with the private sector.

“We are looking at starting this year, and we are seeking to get partnerships going with private-sector companies. This is not Government running things now. This is Government facilitating the private sector to make things happen,” he said.

However, Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC) Chairman Vitus Evans hinted that given the scope of red tape involved in the procurement process to ensure transparency and accountability, Shaw’s timeline might be too optimistic.

Located at the AMC complex, the AIC grew out of the merger of the Agricultural Development Corporation and Agricultural Support Services Productive Projects Fund Limited. It now operates as a department of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries as a business-facilitation unit, with responsibility for investment promotion and market development.

“We have a number of enquires. We don’t have partners, and then again, because of the whole procurement issue and actually having to do it right, in terms of proper governance, and it is something that we have to advertise,” he told The Gleaner, pointing to possible delays. “We want to have open bidding, open competition, and actually have that happen, and this is where we are. The policy decisions have been taken about it. It (the complex) has to go, but we have to try to maintain it in agriculture for agricultural purposes.”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com