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JIS News

The women of Mango Valley in St. Mary and their families, along with displaced banana workers are to benefit from a $26 million grant, part of a total package of $196 million, under a European Union (EU) Banana Support Agreement between the Government of Jamaica and the EU.
The agreement was signed at the Port Maria Civic Centre yesterday (December 4), by Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, representing the Government of Jamaica, and Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Jamaica, Ambassador Marco Mazzocchi Alemanni on behalf of the European Union.
The Mango Valley women will move into export and agri-tourism starting next year. They plan to employ more persons from the surrounding areas, procure equipment to do portion packaging of fruit preserves to be sold to local hotels, and export breadfruit flour to Barbados, said Cinderella Anderson, President of the Mango Valley Visionary Friendly Society, in an interview with JIS News at the signing.
“This new phase of the Mango Valley Project adds to their previous operations in organic farming and manufacture of pastries and jams,” Miss Anderson said, while informing that “in their pastries they blend flour made from breadfruit and banana with imported wheat flour”. Miss Anderson pointed out that while attending a recent trade show in Barbados, companies expressed an interest in their breadfruit flour, which they now plan to produce with the new EU grant, for export to Barbados.
Many of the women who are involved in the project, and who worked in the banana industry in the past, were involved in the carrying, washing, packaging and selling of bananas. Noting that two men are also in the group she indicated that everyone was quite satisfied and was looking forward to continued growth and expansion.
Ambassador Alemanni in his address said “the Banana Support Programme had resulted from the EU re-thinking its support for the industry to facilitate the transition of banana workers who had exited the industry in the last decade as well as their communities into new, diverse and sustainable income generating activities”.
Explaining further he said, “the approach is an integrated one comprising access to financing, training, small scale economic activities and technology integration.”
Meanwhile, Minister Tufton said that while he supported diversification as a way of reducing vulnerability and creating alternatives to meet new challenges, he recognized that banana production remained a very important aspect of rural development.
“Local consumption of bananas is three times that of exports and added to this amount are quantities required by visiting consumers. We are not abandoning exports” he said adding that, “the EU is supporting those who wish to diversify as well as those who wish to stay in banana production”.
Dr. Tufton asserted that, “the best way to continue banana production is by making it less vulnerable to hurricanes, by spreading production to parishes less susceptible to hurricane damage and growing shorter varieties that suffer less wind damage.
Funds for the Mango Valley project will be disbursed to Coventry University, which will provide management and financial support and oversee technical inputs and training. They will work in collaboration with RADA which has monitoring responsibility on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The other five projects supported under the European Union Banana support agreement include banana sector retraining through the HEART Trust; institutional strengthening of micro- enterprises through the St. Thomas Credit Union; capacity strengthening through Christian Aid; agro-tourism through the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture(IICA), and egg marketing through the Jamaica Egg Farmers Association.