JIS News

With international trade in bananas, especially to the European market, now open to all producers, countries such as Jamaica that previously enjoyed preferential treatment, will have to compete with larger banana producers.
In an effort to help Jamaica and other countries adjust to the changes, the European Union (EU) established the Banana Support Programme in 1996. The initiative has two components, a primary element that offers research and other support to banana farmers and a Rural Diversification Project (RDP), established in 2001.
Co-ordinator of the EU Banana Support Programme, Marjorie Stair says the aim of the RDP component, “is to address the shift from banana production and to stem the migration that would have taken place as a result of the decline.”
“The programme is about diversification out of bananas into other enterprises.. the rural diversification project is targeting specifically those farmers, farm workers and port workers displaced because of the decline in the banana industry,” Miss Stair points out.
The $600 million project falls under the EU’s special assistance framework and targets the six traditional banana growing parishes of St. Mary, Portland, Clarendon, St. Catherine, St. Thomas and St. James.
Additionally, she informs that to create awareness about the changes to these farmers, a sensitization process was started in September 2006.
“What we have been doing since, is meeting with a number of interest groups and we have also been reviewing proposals that came out of the workshops that were held. We are now going to be intensifying these activities,” Miss Stair tells JIS News.
“We are going to be calling for proposals relating to agricultural and non-agricultural enterprises and will be conducting a number of feasibility studies,” she further explains.
In keeping with the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands thrust to develop a number of non-traditional sectors, the programme will also seek new opportunities for persons involved.
“We are trying to use some of the project funds to provide assistance in terms of investment in these enterprises,” she states, adding that all projects selected must also be market driven, with prospects for growth.
The programme will also provide support to rural development organizations that offer investment and necessary services in the targeted regions. “For example, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is providing training in particular areas can benefit form the programme,” she notes.
It is anticipated that by 2009, the end of the Banana Support Programme, an estimated 20,000 rural family members would have benefited directly.

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