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.

Defending champions Kingston College (KC) scored a big 8-0 victory over Cedar Grove High at the Stadium East field on Friday to extend their perfect record in the 2019 ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup football competition. With the victory, KC moved to maximum nine points to stay atop Group G, six points ahead of second-place Excelsior High, which have won two of their three games. In the group’s other game, hosts Pembroke Hall and Dunoon Technical battled to a 0-0 draw, a result that handed both teams their first points. St Catherine High also registered a big victory with an away 7-0 win over Northern Technical to extend their perfect record. They have now moved to maximum nine points to lead Group C courtesy of goal difference over last season’s beaten semi-finalists St Andrew Technical High School, which beat the visiting Papine High 1-0. In the group’s other game, Penwood High rebounded from defeats in their first two games to beat Oberlin High 1-0 at the Golden Spring field. Last season’s beaten finalists St George’s College also extended their perfect record in Group F with a 3-0 victory over visitors Campion College. The Neville Bell-coached team has now moved to maximum nine points, a five-point lead over second-place Eltham High and third-place Calabar High, which are both on four points. Eltham High gained their first victory of the season by beating Norman Manley High 3-0, while Calabar High won 1-0 at Ardenne High to also achieve their first victory. FRIDAY'S DIGICEL MANNING CUP RESULTS GROUP A Clan Carthy 0 Cumberland 1 Haile Selassie 1 Bridgeport 0 GROUP B Kingston High 0 Jonathan Grant 0 Charlie Smith 1 Denham Town 0 Donald Quarrie 0 Ascot 2 GROUP C Northern Tech. 0 St Catherine 7 STATHS 1 Papine 0 Oberlin 0 Penwood 1 GROUP F Ardenne 0 Calabar 1 St George's 3 Campion0 Eltham 3 Norman Manley 0 GROUP G Pembroke Hall 0 Dunoon 0 Kingston College 8 Cedar Grove 0 DIGICEL MANNING CUP MATCHES FOR SATURDAY GROUP D Mona vs Meadowbrook Tivoli vs St Mary's College Camperdown vs Edith Dalton GROUP E Innswood vs Tarrant Wolmer's vs Jose Marti Vauxhall vs Greater Portmore WATA DACOSTA CUP MATCHES FOR SATURDAY ZONE A Irwin vs Anchovy Green Pond vs St James Cornwall vs Maldon ZONE B Frome vs Rusea's Green Island vs Hopewell ZONE C Cedric Titus vs Holland Spot Valley vs William Knibb ZONE D Godfrey Stewart vs Mannings Grange Hill vs Belmont Petersfield vs Maud McLeod ZONE E STETHS vs Lacovia Maggotty vs Munro Sydney Pagon vs Black River ZONE F Manchester vs May Day B.B. Coke vs DeCarteret Belair vs Mile Gully ZONE G Roger Clarke vs Christiana Alston vs Spalding Holmwood vs Know ZONE H Clarendon College vs Edwin Allen Kellits vs Lennon ZONE I Ocho Rios vs Iona Browns Town vs Marcus Garvey Oracabessa vs York Castle ZONE J Brimmer Vale vs Annotto Bay Carron Hall vs Tacky ZONE K McGrath vs Enid Bennett Dinthill vs Charlemont ZONE L Titchfield vs Happy Grove Fair Prospect vs Port Antonio ZONE M Garvey Maceo vs Glenmuir Winston Jones vs Denbigh ZONE N Old Harbour vs Central Foga Road vs Vere ZONE O Robert Lightbourne vs St Thomas Tech Yallahs vs Seafort Morant Bay vs Paul Bogle

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola insists he will not be concerned if Manchester City fail to win a single title this season, adamant their last two campaigns should be considered "exceptions". City were beaten 3-2 away to Norwich City last time out in the Premier League, leaving the champions five points adrift of pacesetters Liverpool, who have won all five of their matches. The Reds and City went the distance in the title race last term, with Guardiola's side ultimately lifting the trophy after accumulating 98 points, one more than their rivals. Having dropped points in two matches already and suffered injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, Guardiola is tempering expectations of City in 2019-20. He said in Friday's news conference: "I'm going to tell you something, we are not going to win the next 10 Premier Leagues in a row, not even the next one or the next four or five in a row, that is impossible, that is not going to happen. "I'm not concerned about that, I am concerned for every single game to be close, close to who we are and our strong points, of which we have many, but you know if the people believe what Norwich has done, if they do it every time, they will beat us, so we will see if we can find a solution to it. "With football, having the same players and what we did last season, maybe that won't work this season. One more year and different personal problems, maybe manager personal problems, everything influences the team. "One little detail can have a big impact on the performance of the team and on players, so that's why it can happen. It is part of the process to lose games, it's a normality, it happens. "The exceptions are what we have done two seasons ago and what Liverpool and Man City did last season, that is an exception, but the team will lose games. "The problem is, know the reason why, or if you have figured out the reason why, try to find a solution for the next ones, so I'm not really concerned if we don't win any titles this year. "I want to win again as much as possible with titles, but it's a different approach when I see my life, see my career, my profession, around the games like the people expect. "So, when you hear 'they are invincible', 'they are the best team in the universe', or whatever, it seems bad, it's not true. "I saw many good things against Norwich and I've seen many good things against Shakhtar [Donetsk]. In one game it was enough, another game it was not enough, but we are not going to win every game all the time, we are not going to win all the titles. "No one can do that, Manchester City neither, so we will try. Did we try against Norwich? Of course we tried, we did not give up, we didn't say, 'we are going to lose'. That didn't happen, we tried and we tried and we tried. "So hopefully, the last game of the season against Norwich here [the Etihad Stadium], we can think about it [the defeat to Norwich] and see if we can beat them, a little revenge to win the Premier League." City return to Premier League action on Saturday when they host rock-bottom Watford.