Some $50 million is being made available to banana farmers under a resuscitation programme being undertaken by the Government, as it looks to build a sustainable domestic banana industry and cut down on imports of banana chips.
Making the announcement during the 2012/13 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on May 30, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the programme, which will be a public/private partnership, is to commence immediately.
He said under the initiative, 300 acres of bananas will be resuscitated to produce fruit specifically for processing into banana/plantain chips by participating processors.
"The processors, in turn, through a Memorandum of Understanding, will reduce their importation of banana chips, over time, commensurate with the projected increase in production under this programme,” Mr. Clarke said.
He added that some $50 million has been reserved by the Development Bank of Jamaica to be loaned to participating farmers through the Peoples Cooperative (PC) Banks, at an interest rate of eight per cent.
Mr. Clarke further noted that the Banana Board will provide technical extension service in a focussed and concentrated way to participating farmers.
Meanwhile, the Minister announced that the European Union has allocated some €4.73 million Euros under its Banana Accompanying Measures.
"We expect these funds to be available early in the next financial year," Mr. Clarke said.
He added that, significantly the All Island Banana Growers Association will be strengthened to take on the role of providing extension service, input, and marketing information to align supplies to the market.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter