JIS News

Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, has said that despite the challenges poised by globalization and the erosion of preferential access to overseas markets, the country’s traditional export crops “held its own” this year.
Minister Clarke, who was addressing an end-of-year press conference at his Hope Gardens offices in Kingston yesterday (Dec. 28), said that during the 2005/2006-crop year, sugar cane production improved to 1.7 million tonnes, representing an increase of some 1.3 million tonnes over the period following the passage of hurricane Ivan. Production for the 2006/07 cane crop was estimated at 1.8 million tonnes.
He noted that as part of efforts to address the problems that have beleaguered the industry for years, the Ministry had put in place the necessary financing and management strategies to ensure the success of the current crop.
“Given the proposed price cut by the European Union of 39 per cent over four years, commencing with a five per cent reduction in June 2006, we are cognizant of the need to infuse a substantial amount of capital to modernize the industry, improve productivity and diversify the product base. It is for this reason that we have embarked on a course of privatization, and this process is processing apace,” the Minister stated.
In the meantime, between October 2005 and September 2006, cocoa production totaled some 238 tonnes, valued at $15.2 million. Minister Clarke outlined that during the first three months of the new crop year, October to December 2006, production totaled 434 tonnes valued at $49.5 million. This represented an 82 per cent increase over last year’s total of 238 tonnes.
The Agriculture Minister attributed the growth in this sub-sector to an increase in support services provided by the board of cocoa farmers and the fact that the Ministry increased the farm gate price paid for cocoa by 100 per cent during the year in review.
Turning to coffee, he informed that the government in August stepped in to assist coffee farmers whose crops were affected by Hurricane Ivan and had not yet received any benefits from their insurance companies, by advancing $60 million to cover some of their claims and an additional $40 million in grant funding to help resuscitate their farms.
Of this $40 million in grant funding, $15 million was allocated to lowland farmers and $25 million to the Blue Mountain coffee farmers.
Minister Clarke said that as a result of these funds, the coffee industry experienced “better than expected” output during the year. He informed that during the August 2005 and July 2006 crop year, Blue Mountain coffee production increased by 62 per cent, however there was a 20 per cent decline in lowland coffee production.
Between August and November, Blue Mountain coffee production increased by 17 per cent with a further 24 per cent decline in lowland coffee production. Meanwhile, stakeholders in the banana industry worked assiduously during 2006, to recover from the devastation caused by hurricane Ivan in 2004, and hurricanes Dennis and Emily in 2005.
Minister Clarke noted that the industry produced an estimated 32,500 tonnes of banana valued at US$23.1 million.

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