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Agriculture continues to outperform other industries, showing 20.5 per cent real growth for the October to December quarter of 2009.

Acting Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Pauline Knight, addressing the PIOJ's quarterly press briefing today (February 16) at the Institute's Oxford Road offices, credited the performance, which she said, is consistent with the previous four review quarters, to more favourable weather conditions.

She also attributed the growth to the success of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' productivity programme, which encourages the production of selected crops.

"Countering a 5.7 per cent decline in animal farming, growth in agriculture was driven by increased output of 29.3 per cent in other agricultural crops, which consist mainly of domestic crops. There was also increased output of 155 per cent in traditional export crops, reflecting an earlier start to the crop year for sugarcane and well as improved weather conditions for bananas," she informed.

Acting Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Pauline Knight (centre), consults with other PIOJ principals – Director of the Economic Planning and Research Division, Dr. Christine Clarke (left) and that Division's Manager, Dr. James Stewart, during the PIOJ's quarterly press briefing on Tuesday, February 16, at the Institute's offices in Kingston.

Even with the strong performance in agriculture, real value-added for the goods-producing industries declined by 7.6 per cent during the quarter, with continued contracting output in mining and quarrying, manufacturing and construction.

"Real value-added for mining and quarrying declined by 56.8 per cent, reflecting the downturn in the global economy and its effects on the aluminium and alumina markets. Total bauxite production fell by 45.7 per cent to 1,967.8 kilo tonnes, due to crude bauxite production declining by 1.1 per cent and alumina production down 65.0 per cent." Dr. Knight informed.

Despite increased production of animal feeds (0.9 per cent) and sugar (4,917 tonnes), real value-added for the manufacturing industry fell by an estimated 4.6 per cent. This is explained by a 5.6 per cent decline in food, beverages and tobacco, with poultry meat down 6.6 per cent, dairy products down 2.6 per cent; and beer and stout declining 27.8 per cent.

In terms of construction, Dr. Knight revealed that the industry fell by 3.5 per cent due to declines in building construction, with a fall off in both residential and non-residential building projects. "There were lower levels of activities, for instance, in hotel construction, air and sea ports expansion," she said, noting that building installation is also estimated to have declined.

She added that the total cement supplied, measured by production, plus imports, minus imports, declined by 10.6 per cent.

Turning to the services industries, the Acting Director General revealed that the electricity and water industry grew by 3.1 per cent with electricity generation having increased by 3.6 per cent, due to a 14.9 per cent increase in non-Jamaica Public Service (JPS) generation, while JPS generation declined by 1.1 per cent. Meanwhile, water production increased marginally by 0.1 per cent to 74, 201.8 mega litres.

However, real GDP in transportation, storage and communication, declined by 4.2 per cent as a result of a fall-off in activities at the air and sea ports.

"Total air passenger movements declined by 6.8 per cent reflecting a downward movement at the Norman Manley International Airport of 10.6 per cent, and a similar downward movement at the Sangster International Airport of 4.7 per cent," she said. She noted that maritime cargo volume also went down 24.1 per cent, reflecting 24.5 per cent decline in inbound cargo and 23.7 per cent decline in outbound cargo.

In relation to finance and insurance, Dr. Knight said that the sector remained flat, due to higher volume of activities at deposit taking institutions and growth in investment portfolios of fund managers, which was counterbalanced by estimated decline in fees and commission income.

Additionally, the wholesale and retail trade, and repair and installation of machinery, recorded a decline in real value-added of 0.8 per cent, Dr. Knight noted.

"Performance continued to be adversely impacted by decline in the stock of loans by commercial banks for personal consumption purposes. There was also decline in industries linked to the wholesale and retail trade sector and a fall in imports," she informed, noting that a decline in sales was recorded for four of the nine categories.

Turning to the hotels and restaurants industry, the Acting Director General noted that real GDP was also flat in this area. "Total arrivals declined by 6.4 per cent due to a 19.0 per cent reduction in cruise passenger arrivals. However, this was countered by an increase of 2.0 per cent in stopover arrivals," Dr. Knight said.

She noted further that the performance of this industry continues to "outperform most of our regional neighbours and remains above initial projections by most industry analysts."

Overall, the PIOJ estimates that real GDP for the October to December 2009 quarter declined by approximately 2.5 per cent relative to the same period in 2008.

In terms of the GDP performance for the 2009 calendar year, this is estimated to have declined by 2.8 per cent.