$100m allocated to assist Monymusk workers

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries says starting tomorrow it will be providing assistance to factory workers at the Monymusk Sugar Estate in Clarendon in the wake of the current closure of the factory.

The ministry, in a release this afternoon, said the payment is in keeping with a commitment made to the workers by Portfolio Minister Audley Shaw at a stakeholder meeting held at the estate in Lionel Town on February 15.

At the February meeting, Shaw explained to the workers that in addition to providing $200 million for the transportation of sugar cane from the Monymusk area to the processing factories at Worthy Park in St Catherine and Appleton in St Elizabeth, the Government was also providing a total of $100 million to assist the factory workers and their families.

According to the ministry, a cash grant programme of approximately $30 million is at the top of the assistance package and is to be provided directly to some 260 displaced workers who were employed to the factory during the last crop season, 2017-2018.

The average cash grant, estimated at $100,000 per person, in addition to providing wages, will include assistance towards meeting National Housing Trust (NHT) payments and other such obligations.

Shaw said the one-off grant programme was being provided even as the Government was working assiduously to select the best investor to operate the factory.

He noted that the ministry has received proposals from five interested investors, but wanted to select the best investment model, based on product diversification and reliable and sustainable operations and production.

In addition to the grants programme, a production programme is also being offered to support the factory workers in identifying and establishing an alternative source of livelihood.

Under this programme, SCJ Holdings Limited will lease a minimum of four hectares (10 acres) of farmland to each Monymusk sugar factory worker, the ministry said.

It noted that a budget of $5 million has been earmarked to assist with land preparation activities, while technical support, as well as farm input supplies to include seeds, fertilisers or stock for small ruminants’ production and marketing arrangements are to be provided mainly by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) on a budget of $50 million.

Other interventions aimed at the wider community include a skills training and certification programme to support skills development in the areas of Entrepreneurship, Cottage industry development and Agri-business/farm production by the Heart Trust/NTA with a budget of some $50Million, while the establishment of a BPO facility is also being given serious attention, with JAMPRO tasked to lead in this effort.

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