JIS News

Agriculture and Land Minister, Roger Clarke, has said that despite the ever increasing competition in the international market, the intervention of the European Union (EU) banana support programme has, over the past decade, assisted the country with maintaining its level of banana export earnings.
This, he said, has enabled banana exports to be the fourth largest foreign exchange earner for Jamaica. Mr. Clarke made the observation yesterday (May 4), at the official signing of the financing agreement for the EU’s Special Framework Assistance (SFA) 2005 for banana, between the government of Jamaica and the EU. The signing took place at the Ministry of Finance at National Heroes Circle in Kingston.
The total amount financed under the SFA 2005 is $322 million, of which the European Commission is providing $310 million. The assistance from the EU under the SFA for banana, since its inception in 1996 has amounted to more than $3 billion.
The Minister said he was particularly excited about the Rural Diversification component of the programme, which would stimulate economic development by promoting alternative agricultural and non-agricultural income generating activities for the estimated 10,000 farmers, port workers and others, who had been displaced due to their inability to meet the increasingly strict production requirements for export.
Mr. Clarke described this component as dovetailing “beautifully” into the Ministry’s commitment to an integrated approach to rural development, which extended beyond agriculture, and recognized the importance of diversified economic activities, as a means of empowering people and reducing rural poverty.
Indeed, he said, the Ministry’s focus on rural development was validated by the latest available data from the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica in the 2005 Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions, which was tabled in Parliament last week. The survey, he noted, indicated that while rural poverty declined by 4.1 per cent between 1999 and 2005, it remained 6.3 percentage points higher than the national average of 14.8 per cent in 2005.
Mr. Clarke said that the coming on stream of the rural diversification component augured well in the face of the challenge of modernizing the sector and providing alternative livelihoods for displaced and marginalized persons.
Meanwhile, Head of Delegation of the European Commission in Jamaica, Ambassador Gerd Jarchow, informed that the programme to be financed under the agreement would continue to build on the achievements of the preceding SFA-funded programmes, and would provide under the Banana Improvement Programme component, direct support for banana production, addressing domestic and export banana and plantain farmers.
Under the Rural Diversification component, he said, support would be provided to rural persons who had stopped producing banana and plantain, and who might be seeking to enter other economic activities.
“This programme will therefore further help the banana sector and Jamaican households, which traditionally, have been dependent on the banana industry,” he said.
“I believe that the benefit of this assistance will go a long way in securing the economic viability of the banana industry and improving the standard of living in rural areas,” the Ambassador added.
Mr. Jarchow said it was anticipated that in 2009, the end of the implementation period for the programme, an estimated 20,000 rural family members would have benefited directly from the programme.