Banana Board Looking to Boost Exports

Photo: Melroy Sterling A thriving banana plantation in Jamaica.

Story Highlights

  • The Banana Board is targeting further increase in exports by year-end, says the entity’s General Manager, Janet Conie.
  • Mrs. Conie noted that exports have been increasing steadily since being resumed in 2011 after a three-year break consequent to the sector’s devastation by Hurricane Gustav in 2008.
  • Exports further increased to 211 tonnes in 2014; 312 tonnes in 2015; and 410 tonnes of the fruit were shipped in 2016.

The Banana Board is targeting further increase in exports by year-end, says the entity’s General Manager, Janet Conie.

She said the prospects are positive, as Jamaica has received queries from several countries, particularly in Europe, regarding potential export arrangements.

She was speaking with JIS News following a tour of farms and facilities in Portland and St. Mary on February 22 that are benefiting under the European Union (EU) Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAM) programme.

Mrs. Conie noted that exports have been increasing steadily since being resumed in 2011 after a three-year break consequent to the sector’s devastation by Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

She said following slow starts in 2011 and 2012, activities picked up in 2013 when 78 tonnes of the fruit were exported.

Exports further increased to 211 tonnes in 2014; 312 tonnes in 2015; and 410 tonnes of the fruit were shipped in 2016.

The sector currently has approximately 3,500 acres of land being cultivated by some 2,000 farmers.

Mrs. Conie said the fruit, which is supplied through Board-certified farmers/exporters, is shipped mainly to the Cayman Islands, Canada, and occasionally to the United Kingdom, pointing out that “these are good niche markets (where) we are getting good prices”.

Mrs. Conie noted, however, that Jamaica’s ability to capitalise on and fulfil the growing overseas demand for banana is contingent, to a great extent, on local suppliers and producers attaining GLOBAL Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification.

Global GAP is the worldwide organisation that assures the implementation of safe, sustainable agricultural practices worldwide.

It does so by setting voluntary standards for the certification of products while creating incentives for producers to adopt safe and sustainable practices.

Mrs. Conie said this engagement is being carried out by the Board through the Banana Export Expansion Programme (BEEP), which is supported under JBAM.

She explained that the programme provides farmers with a number of benefits tailored to enhance their operations and position them for certification, thereby enabling them to export.

These include infrastructure, such as designated storage facilities for pesticides, insecticides, fertiliser and other inputs. Farmers are also required to erect packing areas and install irrigation networks, among other things.

This is being complemented by the introduction of tissue cultures for new and existing varieties of bananas aimed at boosting production.

Mrs. Conie said implementation of BEEP is expected to be completed this year, as only 50 per cent of the project is under way.

“So, we expect by the end of this year that we will be doing even more where exporting is concerned, because we will then be able to access some of those (new) markets. We believe that if we get larger volumes and we can ship in more feasible methods, like by containers, then the profits will be much better,” she noted.

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