Prominent businessman Gassan Azan (right) and hotel mogul Gordon 'Butch' Stewart ahead of Azan's project launch. (Photo: Marlon Reid)

Well-known businessman, Gassan Azan is taking a giant step towards reducing the country’s food import bill with an ambitious $11 billion operation on 400-acres of prime agricultural lands at Lakes Pen in Bernard Lodge, St Catherine. The state-of-the-art agricultural development will cost $11 billion and will be established over two phases. It will directly employ 1,000 people in phase one, and an additional 350 in phase two. The company plans to spend $9 billion in the first phase of the project, and another $2.2 billion in the second phase. The Lakes Pen Agri-Ventures, as the project is called, was officially launched at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday. The hi-tech venture which will boast the latest in agricultural technology and will feature five types of farming. It will consist of an orchard, a greenhouse and a shade house. In terms of the savings that could accrue to Jamaica, Azan pointed out that with the country currently spending between US$850 million and US$1 billion annually on some 40,000 tons of food imports, Lakes Pen Agri-Ventures, could cut that amount significantly. Azan presented his plans for theLakes Pen Agri-Ventures ealrier this week. (Photo: Marlon Reid) “When you look at the numbers, how they stack up, this (venture) will produce 17,000 tons each year and we import 40,000 tons; you can see that this is an approximate 40 per cent reduction in the import bill if we hit our target,” Azan remarked during the project launch. “If we even miss our target by half it is still a substantial reduction in the import bill which gives you that level of, not only food security but also financial security in your reserves. So there is significant benefit to this project from that standpoint without even adding the job scenario into that. That is just raw production numbers,” Azan stated. Among the crops that will be grown are tomatoes, peppers and lettuce which are sold in large volumes in Azan’s Megamart stores. The reliability of imports in part drove him to launch the venture. “Because we have so many deficiencies in the agricultural produce that we have for sale, the idea was to find some kind of food security or supply-line security for the MegaMart stores. “We want to build some kind of linkages back to the farmer straight to the retail shelves. We would end up producing better quality, better supply lines, and a more farmers’ market appeal rather than a supermarket appeal,” he said. The project is well underway as the assembly of the greenhouses is set to start in November. The initiative will also boast what Azan described as a “collection (or) mother-farm-type operation by October.” “We want all stakeholders to come on board and be a part of this process which will change the landscape in agricultural production and distribution in Jamaica,” Azan said. Meanwhile, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Lenworth Fulton appeared to agree. “Our people here have tried very hard. Our small farmers have produced an average of 650,000 metric tons of food yearly …but we need to move a notch up,” said Fulton. “I am very happy for the project, the agricultural society is very happy, the farmers will have a market to feed into so I can go out and chirp the happy word: 'Produce, there is a market coming',” Fulton added. And project manager, Victor Cummings, said the farm will revolutionalise the way agriculture is practised in Jamaica. “We are going to transform agriculture, something that has been talked about so many times but hasn't been done,” said Cummings. “We have a vision of how we are going to revolutionise agriculture in Jamaica, how we are going to transform it, and looking at value-added for export utilising the land resources that are there,” said the former Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke revealed that the government conducted a ‘Liability Management Transaction’ in the international capital markets on September 4.

Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, has announced that Jamaica is to realise some $2.5 billion in interest savings annually as well a US$35 million reduction in the country’s debt. This has resulted from what Clarke said is a "Liability Management Transaction"in the international capital markets on September 4. It was conducted on behalf of the government by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citibank as joint underwriters/arrangers. A statement from the Ministry of Finance on Friday said the transaction had two components; the issue of an invitation for the purchase of any, or all of the outstanding global bonds due in 2022, 2025 and 2028 for cash - and the issuance of US$ 815.0 million in notes through the reopening of the 7.875 per cent bonds due in 2045. The transaction which was concluded on September 16 also extended the maturity profile of Jamaica’s external debt. “Prior to this transaction, 36 per cent of Jamaica’s external debt matured after 10 years; now 46 per cent falls due after 10 years,” the statement said. “Similarly, prior to the transaction, approximately 1 per cent of Jamaica’s external debt matured after 20 years; now 21 per cent...matures after 20 years,” it added. It said the combination of the reduction in Jamaica’s annual interest costs of $2.5 billion per year, the reduction in the debt stock of US$35 million and the lengthening of the maturity profile of the country’s external debt “together improve Jamaica’s finances and our credit profile.” “In this period of uncertainty, Jamaica was able to issue a bond with nearly 30 years of tenure. That bond was issued at a yield of 5.8 per cent in the international market and that bond was oversubscribed three times,” Clarke said while addressing a media round table on Friday. “The end result of those series of transactions is that Jamaica is able to reduce its debt stock, Jamaica has been able to reduce its interest bill on an annual basis and Jamaica has lengthened the maturity profile of its external debt, again reducing our risk,” Clarke emphasised. The finance minister said these are material gains for Jamaica, “And we were able to do this at a time of global uncertainty, which tells us (of) the confidence that the international investing community has in Jamaica and in Jamaica’s future prospects and the recognition that is being given to the substantial amount of progress that Jamaica has made under the precautionary standby arrangement (with the International Monetary Fund).” The liability management transaction also saw the issuance of US$ 815.0 million in notes through the reopening of the 7.875 per cent bonds due in 2045. The September 4, 2019, five-day tender offer was announced targeting the following bonds: the 11.625 per cent due in 2022, the 9.25 per cent due in 2025, the 7.625 per cent due in 2025, and the 6.75 per cent due in 2028. Total principal outstanding across all four bonds is approximately US$3.083 billion. At the expiration of the Tender Offer on September 10, 2019, holders of an aggregate principal amount of US$966.9 million agreed to sell their bonds back to the GOJ. The Ministry said the participation rate of 30 per cent is above the international benchmark of 20 per cent for these transactions. The total cost of the tender was US$1,181.30 million, representing the prevailing market value of those bonds, in addition to the aggregate accrued interest of US$21.33 million payable from the last interest payment date to the date of the tender offer. The second component of the transaction was executed on September 11, 2019, involving the issuance of new bonds through the reopening of the 7.87 per cent bonds due in 2045. The principal amount raised was US$815.0 million at a yield of 5.80 per cent. “The offer was oversubscribed three times and was issued at a premium of 27.6 per cent over the related principal amount resulting in a yield of 5.80 per cent. “Overall, total proceeds raised from the bond issue, therefore, amounted to US$1,048.60 million, including interest income of US$8.56 million,” the Ministry said. The total principal outstanding on the 7.875 per cent bonds due in 2045 increased from US$1 billion to US$1.815 million.

This week in music, the wildcroc don himself, Quadais keeping fans happy as hedropped a new song with the music video for his single. Reggae singer Jesse Royalalso released his highly anticipated new visual, while there were new releases from Cham, Elly B and Giark as well.Check it all out in this week’s UNPLGD New Music Friday. NEW VISUALS Producing one of the hottest summer songs, ‘New Gyal Alert,’ Quada, on Monday,released a musical combo for his song titled ‘Tint.’ Dunw3ll, the producer of Quada’s hit song ‘Hypocrite Hail,’ has teamed up with him once again to create another dancehall banger. With almost 160,000 views, check it out here and let us know your thoughts! The ever conscious lyricist, Jesse Royal, has released the new music video for his hit single ‘Hotter The Battle’ in celebration of its seventh-year anniversary. “‘Hotter the Battle’, originally featured on the ‘6 string cutlass riddim'. Check it out via @xtmnation IGTV. Cham has released thevideo for his single ‘We Survived.’ The song dedicated to overcoming many of the harsh ‘Jamaican realities’ also seeks to inspire those in a similar situation, to do the same. Check it out here. With his new single, ‘Harvest Time,’ upcoming dancehall artiste Elly Bseeks to continuously make hisbreak into the music scene.Tap here to check out his new party single and let us know if it’ll make your playlist. New on the music scene, Giarkhas released the visual for his single ‘So Happy’ produced by Lmr Pro & DreDay, on Monday. The dedicated feel goodlove song has already made its rounds on the internet and playlists. Check it out and let us know your thoughts. For all your new music updates or your chance to be featured in our upcoming releases, check out @unplgd_ja on Instagram or send an email to

Reggae artiste Isiah Mentor

Reggae artiste Isiah Mentor has a message for would-be vigilantes and citizens who engage in reprisal killings: leave all vengeance to God. The song, 'God ah Go Deal with Them', will be released officially on iTunes on his own Village Roots label in October. "I wrote the song because I know that the ultimate punishment is from the creator, and I want to promote a form of anti-vigilantism, I don't feel that people should take up the law in their own hands and do reprisal killings, and that is one of the biggest problems we face today in Jamaica. We need to leave justice if you can, to the law," he said. The song is inspired by the rash of killings of young schoolchildren, especially girls, in recent times. "The murderers often have anxiety and paranoia over their terrible acts, they are going through torture before the Almighty finally takes us. All vengeance to the Almighty and when their judgment comes, it will be triple, we don't want our citizens to engage in reprisals," he said. In April of this year, there was a mob killing of a 26-year-old man, Miguel Mullings, by citizens who were seeking vengeance for the death of an eight-year-old school child, Shantae Skyers, whose decomposing body was found in bushes in Blue Hole, Sterling Castle Heights, St Andrew. Isiah Mentor will be releasing an anti-gang song later this year called 'Gangland', a song aimed at pushing gangs out of the urban communities and promoting good police-community initiatives that limit the power of gangs. He is a firm believer in nationalism and patriotism, even in the face of shifting cultural values. "The Jamaica I know is changing, and there are people hell-bent on changing our culture, our society and our value systems, we need good, decent righteous citizens need to stand up and take our country back. I am doing my part in reminding people of the love and resources we have, we can't lose our culture, we need to save our country," he said. Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during a recent speech at an event dubbed 'Heal the Family Heal the Nation', admitted that reprisals play a huge role in the high murder figures. "Many of the murders in Jamaica are reprisals or vengeance killings. The church can play an important role in tackling crime by reaching out to members of their communities with counselling and intervention," the prime minister had said.

Race 1 – 1500m Atlantic Blue (3), Royal Vibes (5) Race 2 – 1000m St Okahumpka (7), Seven Eleven (5) Race 3 – 1300m Lovers Strike (7) Race 4 – 1500m Kingswood (6) Race 5 – 1000m Rd Beach Boy (5), Kingsman (4) Race 6 – 1400m She’s Symbolic (10) Race 7 – 1100m England’s Rose (3) Race 8 – 1000m Rd Super Amia (1), Deep Blue Sea (4) Race 9 – 1820m Supreme Soul (1) Race 10 – 1400m Dada’s Nala (1), Hologram Shadow (15) BET OF THE DAY Race 3 – 1300m Lovers Strike (7) Race 6 – 1400m She’s Symbolic (10) Race 7 – 1100m England’s Rose (3) Race 9 – 1820m Supreme Soul (1)

Race 1 Atlantic Blue – Cant 8f Gal Last 4f 490 X 354, Gal Out Str. Last 3f 363 Royal Vibes (B) – Cant 9f *Gal Last 4f 484 Key Witness (B) – Cant 9f Gal 511/Phenom Storm – Cant 9f Paced Last 7f 1432, Cant Out Chute Gal Last 5hf 1110 X 1033 Leekout – Cant 9f Gal 3f 361 Race 2 Synchronize – Cant 9f Gal Last 4f 511, Gate 5 Str. Gal 1 st 4f 483 X 1034 ridden Instagram – Gal Out Str. Last 3f 373 Race 3 Lovers Strike – Cant Out Chute Gal Last 3f 372 bt. Rack Away, Cant Out Chute *Gal Last 6f 1161 Emperor’s Treasure – Gal Flat 2f 251 Race 4 Treasure Train (B) – Cant 9f Gal Last 3f 371 bt. Sergeant Quick, (B) – Cant Out Chute Gal Last 6f 1203 Pure Heart – Cant 9f Strode last 3f 414, Cant 8f Gal Last 3f 382 Stormy Lady – Cant Out Chute Gal 5f 1050/Freight Train Race 5 Raw Liquid – Cant 9f Gal Last 5f 1021 X 494, Cant 9f Gal Last4f 492 Beach Boy (&) – Cant 9f *Gal Last 4f 481ridden, (&) – Cant 8f Gal 5f 1012 Bold Smile – Cant 9f Strode 5f 1074, Cant 9f Gal Last 3f 383 easy, Cant 9f *Gal 3f 360, Cant 9f Strode 3f 410 easy Kingsman – Cant 9f *Gal Last 6f 1153 ridden Race 6 A Seh Soup - Cant 9f *Gal Last 3f 360, Cant 8f Gal 5 1/2f 1090 x 1030 Dezzy The Genius (&) – Cant 9f Gal Last 5f 1023 X 500, (&) – Cant 9f Gal Last 5f 1030 Innovator – Cant 9f Gal Last 3f 371, Cant 9f gal Last 4f 493 Cohete Del Exito – Cant Out Chute Gal 7f 1320/Kappone, (B) – Cant Out Chute Gal 7f 1303 My Mom Juss - Cant 9f Gal Last 5f 1043 Elal – Cant Out Chute Gal Last 6f 1191 bt. Treasure Train Race 7 Eagle One (C) – Cant 9f Gal 4f 484/Dejae’s Boy, (C) – Cant 9f Gal Last 5f 1012 bt. Tomohawk England’s Rose – Cant 9f *Gal 5 1/2f 1054 x 591, Cant 9f *Gal Last 5hf 1063 X 1001 Tomohawk (BT) – Cant 9f Gal 5 1/2f 1080 x 1012/Summer Sun, (B) – Cant 8f Gal Last 5f 1032 Wow Wow – Cant 9f Strode 5f 1061, Cant 9f Gal 5 1/2f 1062 x 593 Elitist (B) - Gate 5 Str. Gal 1 st 4f 490 X 1033 Race 8 Deep Blue Sea – Cant 9f *Gal Last 3f 354, Cant 9f Strode 3f 424 easy, Cant 9f Gal Last 4f 492 X 362 Freight Train – Cant 9f Gal Last 3f 372, (B) – Cant Out Chute Gal 5f 1031/Stormy Lady Rachel’s Grace – Cant 9f Strode 3f 412, Cant 9f Gal 3f 373, (T) – Cant 9f Paced Last 6f 1260 Hecandance – Cant 8f Gal Last 2f 242, Cant 8f Gal Last 5f 1034 Butseeyah – Cant 9f Gal 5f 1050 easy Super Amia – Cant 8f Strode 6f 1223 x 1081 Awesome Glitter (&) – Cant 9f Strode Last 3f 401 Race 9 Dysfunctional – Cant 8f Paced Last 6f 1252, Cant 8f *Gal Last 6f 1153 ridden Superluminal (CT&) Cant 9f Gal 6f 1144/Coco Chanel, (CT&) – Cant 9f Gal 6f 1144 Master Of Hall – Cant 9f Gal Last 7f 1301 Supreme Soul – Cant 9f Gal 6f 1150/Baltusrol Race 10 Mirabilis – Cant 9f Strode 3f 424 easy Sandori (Hood) – Cant Out Chute Gal 6f 1210 easy Chinamax – Cant 9f Gal Last 5f 1050