JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has emphasised that the Government will continue to provide the necessary support for the banana industry, to enable it to remain a major contributor to the national economy.
Giving the main address at the grant contract signing ceremony of the European Union (EU) Rural Diversification Programme, for the banana industry, at in Port Maria, St. Mary on December 4, Dr. Tufton said Government is cognisant of the critical role the banana industry is playing, in the promotion and sustenance of rural development, and in providing for the nutritional needs of the Jamaican people.
Under the contracts, Euros1.6 million is being provided by the European Union to promote diversification in agricultural production, in the banana producing parishes of Portland, St. Mary, St. Thomas, Clarendon, St. James and St. Catherine.
Among the objectives of this initiative are the establishment of a banana sector retraining programme, supporting institutional capacity building of parish Credit Unions operating as micro-financing institutions, strengthening capacity for sustainable livelihoods, the development of an Agri-tourism industry in the Buff Bay Valley area of Portland, and the promotion of rural integrated development and enterprise.
Pointing out that the banana industry has been confronted with a number of challenges in recent years, the Minister said that the industry is now at a cross roads, with the country having to decide the best options needed to keep it strong and competitive.
He said that despite the negative impact of hurricanes on the industry over the past three years, and the consequential decision of Jamaica Producers to cease production for the export market, there is still good potential for banana production, particularly on the local market, in respect of providing an income for local farmers and addressing the nutritional needs of the Jamaican people.
The Minister pointed out that the Government has embarked on a number of measures, aimed at supporting banana production, and that a policy position is currently being formulated, to make the banana industry less vulnerable to disasters, such as hurricanes, and to make it more secure in facing the challenges on the international market.
Also addressing the function was Ambassador Marco Mazzocchi Alemani, Head of Delegation of the European Commission (EC), in Jamaica.
He said the European Commission was pleased to provide assistance for the Rural Diversification Programme, and pledged the continued support of the Commission for the Jamaican banana industry.
Mr. Alemani pointed out that the EC has provided more than $4 billion to support the banana industry, over the past four years, to enable the sector to come to terms with the liberalisation of the market, in addition to improving its competitiveness and promoting economic diversification.