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The Government and the European Union (EU) on (Jan. 29) signed a $630 million agreement aimed at providing assistance for the island’s banana and plantain farmers.
Minister of Agriculture, Christopher Tufton and Head of the European Commission in Jamaica, Marco Mazzocchi Alemani, signed the agreement at the Ministry’s headquarters at Hope Gardens.
Of the funding provided, $222 million will go towards a hurricane assistance programme, while $408.9 million will be used to support a rural diversification programme in six banana-growing parishes.
Under the hurricane assistance programme, which will be implemented through the EU Banana Support Programme, support will be provided to plantain and banana farmers, who were affected by Hurricane Dean in August last year. The funds will be used to purchase fertilizer, fungicides and orchard oil.
According to Minister Tufton, approximately 1,047 farmers, who cultivate some 2,588 hectares of bananas and plantains were affected by the hurricane, and under the project, 90 per cent of farms will be rehabilitated benefiting some 940 farmers, who had already qualified through a pre-determined criteria.
He explained that the money would be distributed by the Banana Trading Company Limited and would be disbursed to the affected farmers whose “damage has been verified, and those who have started rehabilitating their fields as an indication of their intention to remain in banana production.”
The programme aims to provide support for the full recovery of the banana industry including local producers. It will also facilitate the early resumption of exports and provide targeted support to export growers so as to exploit the fair trade labelling organization’s niche market that pays premium prices.
In the meantime, the remaining $408 million will finance a rural diversification programme in the traditional banana growing parishes of Portland, St. Thomas, St. Mary, Clarendon, St. James and St. Catherine.
“This is expected to provide alternative livelihoods and stimulate economic growth in these communities,” Dr. Tufton said. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) will administer the programme.
Additionally, he pointed out that the Ministry has identified a number of projects in the livestock, fisheries and protected cultivation sectors that are being considered for support. This support, he noted, included the provision of technical and administrative backing, training and re-training of clients in the target communities and marketing support.
Mr. Alemani, in his remarks, pointed to the need for long-term strategies to effectively deal with the recurring hurricane damage in the local banana industry.
“I strongly recommend that some of the remaining EU Banana Programme resources are used to help farmers and the industry to develop alternative mechanisms for coping with hurricanes in the future,” he suggested.