Puerto Rico gov’t disburses $16 million to farmers
To foster recovery through Hydroponics Program; gov commits to doubling food production
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy announced Tuesday the disbursement of $16 million to help boost the development and recovery of the island’s agriculture industry through the Hydroponic Program.
The incentives, which were awarded to 150 farmers that cultivate using hydroponics and aquaponics, are derived from the Special Economic Development Fund of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco).
“These farmers will receive 75 percent of the reimbursement, up to a maximum of $300,000, for established hydroponic projects, for the recovery of their productive structures or for efficiency improvement projects through automation; and 50 percent of the reimbursement, up to a maximum of $250,000, for new farmer projects to establish operations,” the governor said.
Laboy said that in addition to the incentive the agency grants farmers, a private investment of about $33.9 million will be made so that they can complete their developments.
“DDEC’s Hydroponics Program had an impressive reception,” Laboy said. “Initially, we announced that we had $7 million available for the recovery of hydroponics affected by Hurricane Maria, as well as for the farmers interested in venturing in this farming style.”
The official added that “given the avalanche of requests received and after passing the evaluation process, today we announce this multimillion-dollar disbursement and the retention of 490 jobs and the creation of 136 positions in agriculture.”
The incentive could be used as financing guarantee for the project developed and could be combined with federal incentives received, but cannot be combined with incentives received from the Puerto Rico Agriculture Department or its affiliates.
“We know the need to increase our food production, as well as its export in a more certain environment,” the governor said. “Our commitment as an administration is to double the 15 percent production of food in the island within an eight-year period.”
He added that “following the public policy to establish efforts to create resilient structures in the event of the arrival of another hurricane,” Pridco established a special price of $2 per square feet at Industrial Development Parks, regardless of their area’s market prices.
“At DDEC [Spanish acronym for Economic Development & Commerce Department], we are working so the Hydroponic Program becomes permanent to drive the growth of the agricultural industry and the export of our products harvested by experienced farmers, generating investment and job creation,” Laboy said.
CB reporter María Miranda contributed.