Construction is scheduled to start no later than June next year at Dukes, St Thomas on a US$34 million agri-business facility that will provide well over 1,500 jobs, attract major foreign investment and become the training and research hub for the entire Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Professor Eudene Barriteau made the announcement at a press conference this morning at which she said the UWI-Dukes Agri-Business Development Park had the capacity to revolutionize the economies and societies of Barbados and the region.
She said 1,500 jobs were a conservative estimate for the project, which “will not only offer a diverse range of employment opportunities, but will position Barbados to become a regional hub for entrepreneurial development, educational training and cutting-edge agri-business research in a 21st century, expansive, multi-faceted complex”.
She said the project, which is expected to take about two years to complete, would also accelerate the thrust towards greater self-sustainability in food production and food security with a significant portion of the almost 30 acres of land being set aside as agricultural parcels for farming.
“In addition, the park will accommodate agro-processing and meat-curing facilities, a chocolate manufacturing and training facility, cotton processing facilities, a food standards laboratory, a sewerage plant treatment and recreational spaces,” Professor Barriteau told the gathering that included Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul and Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Association (SBA) Lynette Holder.
The park is to be built on land donated to the UWI by the Edghill family, owners of Dukes Plantation. It will also include a 500-seat conference centre along with retail shops and restaurants.
The project is being funded by the Government of Barbados through its bilateral aid programme with the People’s Republic of China.
Director of the Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship (CFCE) at the Cave Hill Campus, Professor Leonard O’Garro, whose agency is spearheading the multi-million-dollar venture, said the plan also makes provision for residential accommodation, day care centre for infants, a visitors’ centre and field station facility, automatic teller machines (ATM) and open and green areas for recreation.
Today, the majority of officials present welcomed the development.
However, Paul told Barbados TODAY the jury was still out on how it would impact food production in the island.
“It will be judged according to the extent to which it is able to facilitate local food production, the extent to which local producers of food, farmers themselves are able to benefit from the existence of the facility,” he said, adding that “one has to ensure when establishing projects of this kind, they can inspire positive changes in local food production.
“The jury might be still out as to what this will do, because in terms of impacting our livestock production [and] vegetable production, I think the particular nomenclature has to be worked out . . . the extent to which it will facilitate what we currently do in agriculture is something we would be waiting to see and how they proposed to put into place, mechanisms to ensure it has the type of impact that it supposed to have,” the BAS head said.