Economy Grew By 2.7 Per Cent Last Quarter, Agriculture Star Performer


The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has reported that the economy grew by 2.7 per cent during the October to December quarter, with the agricultural sub-sector emerging the star performer, with growth of 12.4 per cent.
Director General of the PIOJ, Dr. Wesley Hughes, while addressing the quarterly press briefing held at the Institute’s Grenada Way offices in New Kingston today (Feb. 15), attributed the strong growth in agriculture to favourable weather conditions and initiatives by the farming community and the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, to improve overall productivity.
“This performance was reflected in a 27.6 increase in export crop production with bananas being up by 141.7 per cent, cocoa production up by 546 per cent and coffee production up by 13.4 per cent,” he informed. Also, there was a 15.1 per cent increase in domestic crop production with condiments up by 42.3 per cent. However, there was a decline in livestock production, as while poultry meat production went up by 4.2 per cent, other livestock such as beef, pork and goat meat, went down by some 24 per cent.
Real growth in the hotel, restaurant and club sub-sectors, which accounts for much of the tourism sector, also grew by 4.0 per cent during the period, Dr. Hughes said. “Arrivals were up by 12.7 per cent, with stopover arrivals (up) 2.7 and cruise-ship passenger arrivals up by about 25 per cent,” he informed. Overall visitor expenditure was US$524 million, reflecting an increase of more than 27 per cent over the corresponding period in 2005.
Turning to the other sectors of the economy, Dr. Hughes said that mining and quarrying weighed in with a 7.2 per cent growth, with total bauxite production increasing by 7.1 per cent with crude bauxite up by 6.2 per cent. Alumina production also increased by 7.2 per cent with capacity utilization up by 5.2 per cent.In terms of manufacturing, Dr. Hughes said the sector continued to trend downward, with production of beverage and tobacco declining by some 2.4 per cent.
Dr. Hughes noted that the closing down of tobacco operations in 2005 had made its impact in 2006, while a 56.7 per cent reduction in sugar production, contributed to a four per cent decline in food processing.
Meanwhile, increased activities in the non-residential component were reflected in a one per cent growth in the construction and installation industry during the review period. “There was also significant activity in the hotel construction sector.of note is the fact that total cement supply to the market increased by 22 per cent during the quarter, relative to the similar quarter for the previous year. Given that production at the local cement plant fell during the quarter, much of that would have been filled by imports,” he noted.
In relation to the services sector, Dr. Hughes informed that electricity and water recorded real growth of 4.7 per cent with non-Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) generation up by some 35 per cent, with JPSCo generation declining by four per cent. Water production remained relatively flat during the period. The transport sector also recorded growth of 3.9 per cent growth, which the Director General said mainly reflected increased activities at the island’s air and seaports. “There was increased visits and maritime cargo volume of 1.4 per cent and 8.1 per cent, respectively. There was also increased passenger movement and air cargo volume by 1.4 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively,” he disclosed.
The finance and insurance services sector saw growth of 2.8 per cent, due to an expansion in core business activities, reflecting an expansion in loan activities in commercial banks. “High fees and commission income, high levels of output, (were) reported also in the building societies, with increased mortgage activities,” Dr. Hughes said.
In line with activities in the construction sector, the distributive sector grew by 1.7 per cent, with hardware, building supplies and electrical goods growing by 33.6 per cent. “Growth in the sector was largely influenced by increased credit availability,” he pointed out.

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