- Nearly 230 banana and plantain farmers in St James, whose crops were affected by drought and diseases, have received fertilizer and plant suckers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
- Another 100 farmers, who registered with the AIBGA on Thursday, will also benefit under the programme of assistance.
- Over 30,000 FHIA seedlings were imported and distributed to farmers across the island under the resuscitation efforts following the ravages of the Moko Disease
Nearly 230 banana and plantain farmers in St James, whose crops were affected by drought and diseases, have received fertilizer and plant suckers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to assist in resuscitating their farms and boosting production.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, made the presentations to the farmers, who are members of the All Island Banana Growers Association (AIGBA), during a ceremony at the Kensington Banana Boxing Plant in St. James on Thursday, February 11.
The provisions are in addition to 150 bags of fertilizer that were distributed last year, to AIGBA members who supply produce to the Maroon Town Banana Chips Factory, in the parish.
Another 100 farmers, who registered with the AIBGA on Thursday, will also benefit under the programme of assistance.
In lauding the farmers’ resilience, Mr. Kellier urged them to utilize the opportunities available to them to increase production for the local and export markets.
While noting that the banana industry is rebounding, he said has not yet regained the capacity to satisfy growing demands for the fruit, as was the case in previous years.
“We recognise that the window or the door is opening even wider for Jamaican bananas. We (visited a prospective) Agro Park that we will be setting up in Hazelymph (and) Seven Rivers… on the border of Hanover…and the farmers over there…are very anxious to go,” the Minister stated.
Based on this, Mr. Kellier advised that within a few months, “I expect to see, based on the lands that we are trying to get the Commissioner of Lands to release, that we can put another 500 acres (202.34 hectares) into production in the Hazelymph/Belvedere area to complement the programme.”
Mr. Kellier said the Ministry remains committed to providing the necessary stimulus to spur the banana industry’s recovery from the prolonged drought, as well as counter the Moko and Black Sigatoka diseases.
He also encouraged farmers to give consideration to cultivating the FHIA (Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agricola) variety of bananas which he informed is more resistant to endemic diseases, and generates higher yields at a lower production cost, compared to the other types.
Over 30,000 FHIA seedlings were imported and distributed to farmers across the island under the resuscitation efforts following the ravages of the Moko Disease
The Banana Board, through the Ministry’s Agricultural Research Station, at Bodles in St. Catherine, has also been growing the variety, and currently manages a multiplication and distribution programme.
For her part, Banana Board General Manager, Janet Conie, commended the farmers in western Jamaica, whose outputs she said were pivotal in the crop’s overall growth nationally.
“Last year, in spite of the fact that we had drought that was compounded (by) drought in the previous year,….with all the programmes and help that we are getting, we still managed to increase production in bananas by three percent (which) in a year of drought is significant,” she informed.
Much of that, Mrs. Conie said is attributable to farmers in the west “who continued production…who when the middle of the country was suffering significantly, pulled out all the stops; and a lot of that had to do with what we have been doing in the (Banana Resuscitation) Programme.”
In this regard, she encouraged the farmers in St James to continue their re-planting endeavours with the FHIA variety bananas, to achieve even greater outturns.
Mrs. Conie also commended the farmers on their willingness to cooperate in the national Moko Disease elimination programme, which has been undertaken on most farms.
Consequent on this, she added, plant contamination currently stands at less than one percent in St James, and Jamaica at large, and is below the Caribbean figure of five percent.