- More than 2,000 banana and plantain farmers and workers will benefit significantly from provisions under the European Union’s Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAM) programme.
- The programme will provide assistance in the form of grants to enable the Government of Jamaica to undertake key activities aimed at enhancing crop production, and strengthening local markets.
- The feasibility of resuming banana exports will also be considered, with focus on creating a niche market in the Caribbean.
More than 2,000 banana and plantain farmers and workers will benefit significantly from provisions under the European Union’s $718 million (€4.73 million) Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAM) programme, to be implemented over the next four years.
The programme will provide assistance in the form of grants to enable the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the All Island Banana Growers Association (AIBGA), to undertake key activities aimed at enhancing crop production, and strengthening local markets.
Head of the EU Delegation in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei, formally launched the programme during a brief ceremony at the St. Mary Parish Church Hall, Port Maria, St. Mary, on May 14. Agreements for the programme were signed by representatives of the EU, the Ministry, and the AIBGA in November 2013.
Under the project, to be managed by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Banana Board will be responsible for administering technical services, which will include: crop testing and sampling, and enhancing development of the fruits’ quality, quantity, and resilience to diseases, through scientific inputs.
The AIBGA will have responsibility for ensuring the provision of plant material; inputs, such as fertilizers; and increasing market access.
In addition, the feasibility of resuming banana exports will also be considered, with focus on creating a niche market in the Caribbean.
These activities will primarily benefit stakeholders in the traditional banana-growing parishes of Portland, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Mary, Clarendon, and St. James.
This is a shift in the JBAM’s previous focus, dating back to its initial implementation in 1996, which was based on enhancing the banana sector’s competitiveness, mainly for export markets.
Exports, however, ceased in 2008 following the industry’s ravaging by several devastating factors, mainly hurricanes.
Focus subsequently shifted to developing local markets through enhanced extension services, introducing new fruit varieties, and pest management. Coupled with this was sector diversification, which entailed the provision of grants to enable affected farmers to engage in other income earning activities, such as beekeeping, alternative agricultural crop cultivation, and tourism development.
These were complemented by the provision of funding for infrastructure development, targeting schools and roads, among others.
In her address at the launch, Ambassador Amadei, noted the EU’s longstanding association with Jamaica’s banana sector, which has benefitted from grant assistance totaling over $4.3 billion over the last 18 years.
She pointed out that JBAM reflects the EU’s efforts to increase the impact of its development policies by supporting sustainable practices, prioritizing locally developed species, safeguarding ecosystems, and focusing on small farmers.
“Smallholders’ agriculture is the backbone of (the) rural area and key to sustaining the livelihood of thousands of people. However, smallholders often face enormous challenges, such as natural disasters, lack of access to credit, weak linkages to markets and praedial larceny. In light of these challenges, and in times of financial constraint for all, the EU has decided to focus the support on smallholders,” the EU delegation Head stated.
Additionally, she stressed that prevailing economic challenges “make it even more critical to ensure that aid is spent effectively and delivers the best possible results.”
“Therefore, the EU targets its resources where they are needed most to address poverty reduction and where they could have (the) greatest impact,” she added.
In his message, read by Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Transport, Works, and Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, welcomed the JBAM programme.
“It will strengthen the resilience of the farmers against future shocks, such as hurricanes, and provide you with livelihood coping strategies and more sustainable production methods,” the Minister said.
Mr. Clarke also thanked the EU for their longstanding “unwavering” support of Jamaica’s banana industry.
The Minister said that following its ravaging by hurricane Sandy in 2012, the sector rebounded to yield 33,295 tonnes of fruit in 2013.
“This did not happen by chance, but by dint of hard work and your resilience, and the strategic commitment of all stakeholders in the industry. The Government is committed to ensuring that advancements are made as we continue to pursue the development of a modern, efficient, and internationally competitive sector that contributes to the development and well-being of our people,” he added.