THE Government in an effort to end a prolonged land dispute is making available over 1,000 acres of land in eastern St Thomas to small farmers, most of whom were displaced by the closure of sugar factories.

Managing director of the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings Limited Joseph Shoucair has confirmed that the government-owned agency, which controls about 200,000 acres of former sugar lands across the island, has been able to close the gap between the parties with the intervention of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green.

“A solution to the land dispute seems finally on the horizon,” Shoucair said, after the discussions, which also involved Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern Michelle Charles.

He said the small farmers have been informally occupying the SCJ lands in the Plantain Garden River area of the parish for several years. The situation had been exacerbated by the closure of the Duckenfield sugar factory (Golden Grove) in mid-2019. However, some of these lands were already leased by the SCJ to a local company, Devcal Farms Limited, for cattle rearing.

Shoucair said that this gave rise to complications and concerns from the farmers over the displacement and damage to their crops.

With the increasing demand for arable lands, particularly from people displaced by the closure of the sugar factory, the SCJ had allocated some 560 acres of land at Plantain Garden River to the All Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA) for on-leasing to the displaced individuals, and to the extent possible, to informal occupants, Shoucair said.

He added that the AIJCFA would also be responsible for providing the allottees with extension services and identifying markets for their produce. This arrangement, however, did not appease the farmers, as they continued to refuse to leave the lands that were leased to Devcal Farms to be accommodated elsewhere on the Plantain Garden River property.