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State Minister for Agriculture, Errol Ennis has charged banana producers to find creative ways to transform the industry, in light of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) recent ruling against the European Union’s tariff regime, which favoured African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States.
The State Minister, who was addressing the annual general meeting of the Banana Export Company (BECO) today (Sept.14) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, told banana farmers that it was now becoming essential that alternative means be found to make the crop more market-friendly internationally, if they wanted to remain in the industry on a long-term basis.
“I think eventually, we will have to look at how we can transform the banana industry in such a way that we can survive either by the development of niche markets or by-products,” Minister Ennis asserted.
Expounding further, he said diversification “is something we have to consider very seriously in terms of envisioning the future for the banana industry and agriculture in general”.
The State Minister suggested that farmers could produce for the tourist industry. “I don’t think we have looked at seriously . to what extent we can use our tourism industry as a real catalyst for growth and long-term economic sustainability, in our agricultural activities,” the Minister informed the farmers.
“The best prospect that we have for long-term development is to be internally competitive, in other words, given that you wouldn’t have a global marketplace, if we can compete successfully in our own market, we probably would stand a chance of being able to compete successfully in the international markets,” he reasoned.
Mr. Ennis lauded the banana farmers and BECO for their perseverance in the face of difficulties, ranging from an almost total wipe out of the banana industry as a result of Hurricane Ivan last year, and the WTO’s ruling.
The State Minister told the farmers, “one of the problems is that down the road, we are going to have to face serious and very dark consequences, and I think we should use whatever time we get now to prepare ourselves either to exit or to diversify to ensure that we have some viability in terms of our economic activities.”