Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, says banana exporters must look to tap into non-traditional overseas markets.
This, he said, is critical for the country to resume export of the crop in the significant volumes it did, in earlier years.
Speaking at the signing of a $20 million (€180,000) grant funding contract to benefit the sector on May 2, at the All Island Banana Growers Association’s (AIBGA) South Avenue offices in Kingston, Mr. Clarke said that banana, which was primarily exported to Europe, was once one of Jamaica’s major foreign exchange earners.
He noted however that the last significant banana shipment from the island was in 2006/07, when approximately 32,000 tonnes were exported. “We have not exported anything substantial since then. Hurricanes, (and other) natural disasters have driven us out of the market. Also…problems with the pricing arrangement,” he stated.
Mr. Clarke informed that banana is currently being exported to the Cayman Islands and it is time that “we will look at (other) places like the Turks and Caicos. We need to look at those little islands, which do not grow bananas, and see how we can penetrate those markets”.
The Minister said he is “very encouraged” by recent enquiries made of him by a visitor from Canada, about the possibility of arranging “streamlined banana exports” to that country. “He tells me that it (banana) goes as quickly as it comes, so we are trying to explore that avenue”.
The grant funding, provided under the European Union Banana Support Programme (EUBSP), is to assist in effecting institutional strengthening at the AIBGA, and in the sector, in general.
Jamaica’s banana industry has benefitted from some $4 billion in EU support since 1996.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter