A Motion urging the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and various stakeholders to diversify the market for Jamaican coffee and improve the quality of the product, was approved in the Senate on April 27.
Senator Norman Grant who moved the Motion, said the Jamaican coffee industry has been affected over the past nine years by a series of storms related to both weather and the economy.
“The world economic recession has impacted the industry significantly, as there was reduced demand from the three main markets – Japan, the United States of America (USA) and Europe,” Senator Grant said.
This, he said, has resulted in a significant reduction in prices paid to the farmers and a reduction in purchases by the private coffee dealers in the industry, which led the then Government to respond to the crisis by providing a loan of $310 million through the EXIM bank.
“Prices for farmers fell to the lowest in 20 years, falling to $2,400 per box for Jamaica Blue Mountain and $1,500 for non-Blue Mountain farmers. The prices paid and the delays by some buyers of coffee did not provide the required cash flow or stimulus for the farmers to properly care for the crops, and in fact, a number of farmers just left their coffee farms without completing the harvesting of berries,” Senator Grant noted.
He added that the attrition rate may be as much as 35 per cent, while pointing out that significant and important attention was not paid to the coffee berry borer, which presents a real threat to the 2012/13 crop.
“It is estimated that if this is not addressed now and is allowed to continue on the present trend, this could result in loss of revenues for the farmers and the country of some $430 million, affecting the lives of 9,000 farmers and 45,000 farm and rural families,” Senator Grant said.
He indicated that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will continue to work with the coffee community to support the diversification of the marketing of Jamaican coffee.
He added that this move to diversify and expand the market is most strategic. “We must continue the expansion into the USA and Canada and also pull for a greater presence in Europe, China, South Korea and the others. We must move to develop a coffee master plan that is aimed at increasing our production levels for both Jamaica Blue Mountain and High Mountain and move to regain lost markets and attract new ones,” Senator Grant said.
“This must be underpinned by collaboration with the tourism sector where a large portion of product is sold now in bond shops in Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Every tourist is coached about the product and a marketing and distribution channel worked back into their home market. We must get every cruise ship passenger on coffee when they visit our island,” he added.
In his comments, Opposition Senator, Dr. Christopher Tufton, while supporting the Motion, noted that there is already a strategy that encourages market diversification of the coffee industry.
“What the Government needs to do is to take the strategy that already exists, led by the Coffee Industry Board, in consultation with the marketing companies and the coffee growers generally, and let us advance it in a more significant way to achieve that market diversification. We don’t need to develop another strategy,” Dr. Tufton said.