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Government Pays $19 Million For 5,000 Acres

Largest Acquisition Of Land For Agricultural Purposes In 33 Years


July 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Department of Agriculture’s pressure on the Puerto Rico Planning Board, which approves development proposals, to preserve land for agricultural use seems to have paid off. The Puerto Rico Land Authority last week paid $19 million to Sucesion Roig for 5,000 acres in Yabucoa Valley.

"It’s time to protect valuable land, especially land that is fertile enough to cultivate because of its location and topography," said Agriculture Secretary Luis Rivero Cubano.

The land acquisition—the largest for the local agricultural industry in 33 years—entails an initial down payment of $4 million and payments over seven years at a 4.7% interest rate, guaranteed by the Government Development Bank (GDB). It boosts the amount of land owned by the Land Authority to 86,300 acres.

"The transaction, for the GDB as the government’s fiscal agent, proves our continued commitment to financing projects that permit sustainable economic development," said Carlos Piñero, interim president of the GDB. "We are sure it will enable us to protect our most valuable resource: our land."

A study by Jose Molinelli, director of environmental affairs at the University of Puerto Rico, had indicated that some 270,454 acres, including 80,000 acres owned by the Land Authority and 190,000 privately owned acres, had been identified for potential agricultural use. Nearly 70,000 of the government’s 80,000 acres were said to be suitable for farming, of which the Land Authority is currently leasing 64,000 (CB Dec. 12, 2002). The study didn’t include all the land in Puerto Rico’s central mountain region, which has numerous farms.

The Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, had identified an estimated 270,000 acres of privately owned coastal land that could be used for farming. Today that total has been reduced by 79,546 acres, some of which have been earmarked for residential, commercial, or tourism projects.

The agency believes local residents haven’t been motivated to cultivate land, and that’s why it is trying to spur agricultural production on the island with new production centers.

Rivero Cubano noted that a committee formed to draft a plan for the agricultural development of Yabucoa Valley determined the land would be most profitably used producing high-quality fodder for cattle. Such development would help the government redirect farmers from the declining sugar cane industry.

The committee includes representatives from the University of Puerto Rico, the Department of Agriculture, the Land Authority, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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