The House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 19) approved a measure to declare Rio Cobre an irrigation area.
The Rio Cobre (Irrigation Area) Order, 2022 will expand the locations across the island where the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) is providing irrigation services.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. said that increasing irrigation areas is part of measures to bolster agricultural production by at least 15 per cent to meet domestic, export and manufacturing input demand by 2025.
He noted that the location targeted under the Order was formerly the area described and protected under the now expired/repealed Rio Cobre Licence of 1988.
“Although the area containing the Rio Cobre Irrigation Works has been incorporated under Section 66 (1) of the Irrigation Act, it is still prudent to have it expressly declared an irrigation area, as this will provide an unequivocal declaration that the irrigation works in that area are still protected under law,” he said.
“Moreover, the boundaries of the proposed Rio Cobre Irrigation Area incorporate lands owned by Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings Limited. This will now empower the irrigation authority [NIC] to charge and collect tariff for the irrigated lands in compliance with the Act and the [NIC’s] strategic objective of financial sustainability,” Mr. Charles said.
He noted that the irrigation authority will be able to fully execute its mandate once the area is officially declared an irrigation area.
The Rio Cobre area includes the communities of St. Dorothy, Old Harbour, Spring Village, Hartlands, the Bernard Lodge farming area, and borders westerly to the Mid-Clarendon Area.