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Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wesley Hughes, says that the near 10 percent increase in agricultural production in the April-June 2009 quarter, was more than mere recovery from recent disasters.

"The industry benefitted from the Government's productivity programme, and we saw significant increases in some areas, for example, onion production was up 228 percent, Irish potato up 127.6 percent and carrot production up 62.3 percent," Dr. Hughes said.

He was speaking at the PIOJ's quarterly press briefing on Monday (August 17) at the Institute's Oxford Road office, New Kingston.

Dr. Hughes said that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector increased by 9.2 percent during the quarter. He explained that this improved performance reflected both recovery from Hurricane Dean (2007) and Tropical Storm Gustav (2008), as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' Productivity Programme.

Director General, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wesley Hughes (left), gives a report on the state of the economy for the April -June 2009 quarter, during the PIOJ's quarterly press briefing, held on Aug.17, at the PIOJ's Oxford Road offices, in Kingston. Looking on are: Manager, Economic, Planning and Research Division, PIOJ, Mr. James Stewart (right) and Director, Social Policy, Planning and Research, PIOJ, Dr. Pauline Knight.

"Growth was driven by increase output of 19.4 per cent in Other Agricultural Crops, which consist mainly of domestic crops, and a 1.3 per cent increase in Animal Farming. On the other hand, however, Export Crop Production fell by 9.1 per cent, due mainly to a decline in sugar cane production," he stated.

The electricity and water industry grew by 1.2 per cent. Electricity generation increased by 0.7 per cent, while generation at non -Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) sources increased by 5.3 per cent. However, JPS generation fell by 1.4 per cent.

Water production grew by 5.5 per cent, reflecting the combined effect of a 2 percent increase in production in the western region, and a 7.9 per cent rise in the east.

The Finance and Insurance Services grew by 0.8 percent. This was due to higher income earned by commercial banks and building societies, reduced operational costs at commercial banks and higher interest income at securities companies.

The Hotels and Restaurant sector grew by 3.9 per cent. Total arrivals grew by 5.9 per cent, while cruise visitor arrivals and stop over arrivals increased by 5 per cent and 6.4 per cent, respectively.

"The performance of the sector is one of the few positives to report on, and all the projections were above initial industry projections," Dr. Hughes said.

During the quarter, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by an estimated 3.9 per cent, relative to the corresponding period of 2008. The Services Industry went down by 1.6 per cent and the Goods Producing Industry declined by 10.5 per cent.

Inflation for the quarter was 2.7 per cent. The main contributors were food and non-alcoholic beverages, which went up 2.2 per cent; housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels, up 3.9 per cent; and transport up 4.1 per cent. These three, combined, accounted for 68 per cent inflation during the review quarter.

Dr. Hughes said that remittances for the quarter amounted to US$441.1 million, a decline of 16.6 per cent. He also noted that the external trade deficit for the period January-May declined by 38.2 per cent, to US$1.4 billion; while imports for the period declined by 44.7 per cent to US$1.99 billion.

"This is due largely to a decline of 66.4 per cent in mineral fuels imports, mainly reflecting the downward movement in crude oil prices," the Director General said.

In terms of post quarter prospects, total electricity generation for July 2009 increased by 4.9 per cent to 384.2 million kilowatt hours, while total electricity sales increased by 6.2 per cent to 287.1 million kilowatt hours.

In addition, airport arrivals for July 2009 increased by 3.4 per cent, and cruise passenger arrivals declined by 3.8 per cent.