JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr Christopher Tufton, has informed that the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav on August 28, has resulted in 79 per cent damage to Jamaica’s banana and plantain industry.
“The Eastern Banana Estate and the St. Mary Banana Estate, sustained damage of 95 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. The Jamaica Producers Group Limited, operators of both estates, that contribute approximately 90 per cent to Jamaica’s banana export volumes, have now closed the Eastern Banana Estate and are engaging in discussions with Fred M. Jones Limited, for the use of the lands for sugar production,” Dr Tufton informed.
He also added that Jamaica Producers Group Limited, will retain the St Mary Banana Estate, for a diversified crop production system that includes bananas and root crops.
“This production is to ensure supply of raw materials for the snack food operations located at that estate,” the Agriculture Minister told the House of Representatives yesterday (Sept. 23).
Dr. Tufton also said that 460 jobs have been lost with the closure of the Eastern Banana Estate. He also stated that the Ministry will immediately initiate appropriate programmes for persons being displaced to benefit, from using some $131.3 million of funds earmarked for rural diversification, for which programmes have not been developed or finalised.
“We believe that we can use this event to not only expedite the development of an appropriate strategy for Jamaica’s banana industry, but also to ensure that the use of the rural diversification funds, in areas where banana production is no longer viable, will indeed achieve the overall objective of sustainable development and replace the economies lost by bananas, whilst building the capacity of the communities and people that reside there,” Dr. Tufton said.
The Minister also said that in the coming weeks, the Ministry will be working closely with the Jamaica Producers Group, to ensure that redundancy payment to displaced workers is expedited and will also have meetings with both the displaced workers and the non-estate export farmers.
The Ministry will also be holding meetings with banana industry stakeholders such as the Banana Export Company Limited; the unions, Jamaica Producers Group, and the All Island Banana Growers Association, to discuss the present situation and the way forward.
Other plans include the staging of a key issues and strategy options workshop on October 14, that will be used to initiate the development of a banana policy framework.
The Ministry will also be establishing a secretariat, to: assess the needs and develop a profile of the displaced workers; organise the workers and establish links with existing growers organisations and Non Governmental Organisations (NGO), so that they are better positioned to benefit directly from the interventions of the European Union Banana Support Programme (EUBSP); and develop the most appropriate use of available EUBSP grant funds, that can be used to support capacity building and the engagement of those displaced in alternate economic enterprises that are sustainable.