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JIS News

Jamaica’s banana industry has rebounded to where it was before the devastation caused by several hurricanes in 2004/05, with a projection that some 30-35,000 tonnes of the produce will be exported this year.
According to Dr. Marshall Hall, Chairman of the Banana Export Company of Jamaica and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Jamaica Producers Group, plans are in place to continue the banana resuscitation programme, which should result in some 50,000 tonnes of bananas being exported in 2007.
Following hurricane Ivan in 2004, the banana industry began recovering by May last year. However, hurricanes Dennis and Emily hit soon thereafter and the banana industry took another fall.
“We have been working assiduously to recover from all three hurricanes and I can report that as of January this year, we were back to where we were before Ivan,” Dr. Hall informed JIS News.
He attributed the quick turn around in the banana industry to the support received from the European Union after hurricane Ivan. Although the support was long in coming and did not materialize until late 2005, he said because it was promised, farmers were able to secure materials, such as fertilizers.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hall explained that the reason for the change in the shipment of bananas from Port Antonio to the Kingston Wharf was merely a cost effective one.
“Because our tonnage of bananas is not as large as it used to be.and because we are trying to get the most efficient shipping cost, we enter into what is called a contract of affreightment, that is, we do not charter the vessel, we merely charter space on the shipping vessel,” he explained.
He told JIS News that the particular vessel, which was selected, was too large for Port Antonio and as such they had to divert to Kingston, and would continue to do so for the remainder of the year.
Asked if the move had inconvenienced farmers in any way, Dr. Hall said definitely not. He explained that for the large estates, St. Mary and Eastern Banana, Kingston was about the same distance from them as Port Antonio, so there was no real impact.
As for small farmers, he said those who are located in the Rio Grande Valley in Portland continued to deliver their bananas to Port Antonio at no extra cost. At the Port Antonio pier, they are palletized and sent into Kingston at no extra cost.
“I think I can say no farmer has been disadvantaged and that the additional cost of shipping the small farmer’s banana from Portland is more than offset by the lower cost of shipping as a result of using bigger ships that call at Kingston,” he explained.