JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the government is working assiduously, as part of a regional arrangement, to secure the best arrangement for the survival and sustainability of the banana industry.
Dr. Tufton, who was addressing a meeting of banana farmers in Highgate, St. Mary recently, said that the government is fully committed to working with the European Union on a deal through which Jamaican bananas can still be exported to that market when the trade preferences provided under the Cotonou agreement expires at the end of the year.
He noted, however that any new agreement reached might not be as advantageous as the one that previously existed, and might require local producers to pay a duty to enter the European market. This will mean that banana producers will have to be more efficient and cost effective, he pointed out.
In the meantime, he said, the Ministry will be working closely with the banana farmers to ensure that the industry remains viable for both the local and export markets.
This includes helping the farmers to secure fair trade certification, promoting greater consumption of bananas in hotels and on cruise liners, and providing support for the replanting exercise now underway.
According to Minister Tufton, fair trade certification will enable the farmers to secure premium prices on the European market, while they stand to benefit from increased earnings from the move to encourage greater consumption in the tourism sector. The support for the replanting process will ensure the continuation of the industry as an employer of labour and a major contributor to the national economy.
The Agriculture Minister noted that there are a number of significant challenges facing the banana industry, and it is of critical importance for the industry to accept those challenges and develop a programme of action to take it forward.
Stating that the industry has made a significant contribution to the social and economic development of Jamaica over the years, Dr. Tufton recalled the period when the country was producing over 200 tonnes of banana annually.