Agriculture Ministry Wants More Banana Farmers Certified Under Fair Trade

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands is seeking to increase the number of banana farmers certified under the international Fair Trade system.
Fair Trade is an organized social movement, which aims to improve the lives of poor banana farmers and workers, by making sure that they get a fair price for the fruit on the international market. The Fair Trade label signifies that the fruits are produced under environmentally sustainable conditions and in keeping with standards of international labour.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry, who spoke to JIS News at a sensitization workshop for banana stakeholders in Western Jamaica held yesterday (April 23), at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay, informed that a portion of the Euros 9 million allocated under the European Union’s (EU) Banana Support Programme, would be utilized in this effort.
According to Mr. Stanberry, only about 10 per cent of the island’s banana farmers are qualified to participate in Fair Trade, and the Ministry’s aim is to bring the figure to 100 per cent over the next couple of years.
“Presently, we have some 57 farmers that have been certified that are so qualified to export under the Fair Trade label and what we have agreed to do is that the rest of the resources we have under the EU project would be used substantially to support more farmers, especially in Western Jamaica, which used to be a vibrant export area, to be so certified. What that means is that we will provide them with infrastructural support, with training, and with irrigation services . that will help them to make the grade,” he said.
The meeting, the first in a series of sensitization workshops for stakeholders in the banana industry, is part of initiatives aimed at resuscitating the sector and increasing its competitiveness and export viability.
“It is the first of this sort in the banana industry to take a concentrated look at the entire industry, starting with the international perspective, because so much of what we do here depends on what is happening in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other such groupings,” explained Mr. Stanberry.
He noted that “so often, we operate without reference to the international environment and that is why we have people, who plant things that the market don’t want, hence we must have dialogue with the farmers.” Group Managing Director with the Jamaica Producers Group, Dr. Marshall Hall, noted that the changes in the EU’s Banana regime, which have brought about a reduction in preference and an increase in quality requirements, have come at tremendous cost to farmers, with many dropping out of production.
He noted however, that the future holds good prospects for the industry as the Jamaica Producers and the Banana Export Company were attempting to reposition banana as a niche market, with more Fair Trade certification and improving the value-added side of the industry.
“I believe that agriculture has tremendous possibilities in Jamaica at this time. When we look at the increase in hotel rooms and the fact that countries like Russia, China and India have a fair number of wealthy people, who are demanding top quality agricultural products grown in environmentally and ethically acceptable ways, we in Jamaica have the tradition, and must now get on and do that job,” Dr. Hall pointed out.

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