Five farmers kickstart long-term land lease program

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The Ministry of Agriculture has officially launched the Long-Term Agricultural Land Lease Program with five farmers who participated yesterday in a ceremonial signing of contracts for the leasing of farm lands owned by the State.

The five farmers were specially selected as the first batch to participate in this step towards developing food security in the twin island state. They represent different farming specializations such as aquaculture and animal husbandry.

“You were specifically selected because you are from a different cross section of farmers across the island and the ministry will be hoping to join with you in making this investment so that you can be successful and generally raise the bar on productivity within the farming sector,” Minister of Agriculture Dean Jonas said.

In his remarks to the small group of large-scale farmers, Jonas said the initiative will remedy the issue of low productivity in the farming sector.

“This new arrangement that we are launching today…will greatly improve on our food production. Lands that are now being withheld from farmers will be made available to them,” Jonas said.

“I have heard your concerns about uncertainty of land tenure. I have heard your concerns about praedial larceny being exacerbated by the fact that decent dwelling places cannot be built on farms with the attending utilities and security systems…long-term investments and meaningful financial arrangements cannot be made with the short-term leases,” he continued, detailing other benefits of the project.

This plan also seeks to afford farmers the opportunity to take their business beyond the shores of Antigua and Barbuda.

The farmers will benefit from long term leases of 25 years or more, and – according to the agriculture minister – the contracts will be binding in perpetuity for lands leased under registered businesses; meaning whoever owns or acquires the business will automatically inherit or become the leaseholder.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, the official signing of contracts can be expected to commence within the next two weeks and all farmers will be able to benefit from the initiative once they have registered as such.

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