Minister of State for Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Ian Hayles, is encouraging farmers in St. James to stick with banana production, noting that the sector offers significant potential for job creation and earnings.
He made the appeal on June 28, as he addressed the Annual General Meeting of the All Island Banana Growers Association’s (AIBGA) St. James Area Council held at the Springfield All-Age School.
Before attending the meeting, the Minister opened a banana ripening facility in the Springfield community, which was funded by the European Union (EU).
Urging the farmers not to give up on the industry, which has suffered the effects of storm and hurricanes, Mr. Hayles said the international donor partners, including the EU, are also doing their part to return the sector to productivity.
He said that through the EU support programme for the sector, some 300 acres are slated to be returned to production to target the chips and agro-processing markets.
In addition, $50 million in loans will be made available to banana farmers through the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the People’s Co-operative (PC) Banks to boost production, while the requisite technical support services will be made available.
The State Minister pointed to the need for the Maroon Pride banana chips factory, located in Maroon Town St. James, to be brought back into production as soon as possible. The facility was closed some four years ago due to the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Gustav. Mr. Hayles said re-opening of the facility “will provide an outlet for the bananas grown in the various districts and provide employment."
Meanwhile, the State Minister commended EU for establishing the ripening facility, which he said, will improve the quality of the product in the market.
“Farmers in Kensington, Maroon Town, Maldon and all surrounding districts will now be able to ripen their bananas in a safe and clean environment. You can be more competitive. Whether you sell in the local markets or the supermarkets, the hotels or at the street corners, your branded bananas will have the quality and appearance that consumer’s desire. Things are changing, and we have to adapt to those changes that will make us more competitive and our business economically viable,” he told the gathering.
He told the farmers to always hold steadfast to best practices as the consumer market is demanding, and will only go for quality.
“We are operating in an ever changing world and we must pay keen attention to what we produce and how that commodity is treated, reaped, stored and packaged. I am therefore grateful to the EU for their continued support of our programmes, which benefit you the farmers,” the State Minister said.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter