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KINGSTON — Deputy Governor-General, Hon. Steadman Fuller, has lauded the support which the  European Union (EU)  has been providing for  the banana industry, describing it as an important catalyst for continued economic activity in the sector.

"The European Union funded Banana Support Programme is an indication of resilience and commitment to an industry that has demonstrated its ability to survive major changes and overcome even some of the most significant challenges," he said, at the launch of  another segment of the Banana Board/European Union Banana Support Programme, held on July 31, at the Denbigh Show Ground, in Clarendon.

In this  segment, the EU will provide support for Extension services, the establishment of nurseries in selected areas of the island and  promote other agricultural crops in areas that have seen a decline in the production of bananas.

The EU  has been assisting the banana  sector since 1999  with  the allocation of $5 billion  through the Banana Support Programme, which will end in 2013.

"The banana trade became the most important economic activity in the post–Emancipation era and would later develop even further. Many industries have been spawned as a result of the banana trade. These include tourism and food processing. Such is the versatility of the plant that hardly anything goes to waste in the banana industry. By-products, such as leaves are used in the making of dokunu, a local delicacy, and farmers oftentimes feed the balk to their pigs," Mr. Fuller added.

For his part, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, encouraged players in the banana industry to put  more effort in developing and marketing by-products, noting that the industry provides reliable cash flows.  He also welcomed the EU's support as a timely investment for further development of the sector.

"The support of the EU came at a critical time, and in going forward, the development of nurseries in strategic locations across the island to make available to our farmers improved varieties, is a commendable effort. The hard work of the Banana Board in the areas of disease management ought to be commended. To be successful at banana production you have to be very good at managing the disease… and we need to accelerate our effort in value added products," the Minister said.

Representing the EU at the launch, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Co-ordinator for the EU Banana Support Programme, Shaun Baugh, said the EU's support is geared toward promoting an efficient banana industry that is able to compete in a liberalised world market.

"The general objective of this phase is to improve the competitiveness of the industry,  support the economic diversification of the industry, and provide social measures for persons and communities, which need to adjust to the decline in the industry. The project has provided important services such as disease monitoring and control, research and extension, certification and market compliance," he said.

Meanwhile, Director with the Banana Board, Egbert Miler, said the banana industry, with the required support, "will once again provide employment opportunities for some 12,000 people and provide valuable foreign exchange earnings."

"The Banana Board has been most fortunate to have received invaluable support from the European Union to assist in carrying out its mandate, and we will continue to reposition the industry," he said.

By Garfield Angus

JIS Regional Office
Mandeville