Speech

The Government of Jamaica has been advised that the European Commission (EC) has proposed a tariff of 187 Euros per tonne on third-country banana imports into the European market, with a zero-duty quota of 775,000 tonnes for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) exporters. There has been no indication how the 775,000-tonne quota will be apportioned among the ACP member states.
The ACP member states have consistently conveyed the importance of the banana industry to the economic and social development of our respective countries. In elaborating our concerns, we have always been mindful that changes in past preferential arrangements are unavoidable. However, the EC’s decision threatens the viability of the banana industry in Jamaica.
The banana industry directly employs more than 10,000 persons and accounts for US$26 million of Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The industry plays a critical role in the development of rural communities, and has key linkages to agro-industry and other sectors of the economy. The survival of Jamaica’s banana industry is therefore essential and a trade arrangement that provides for guaranteed access to the EU banana market at a remunerative price is critical to its sustainability.
This new EC proposal, which would come into effect 1 January 2006, would set the rate well below the 275 Euros/t level proposed by the ACP and also below the 230 Euros/t figure put forward by the EC in January of this year. A 187 Euros/t tariff will have a devastating effect on all ACP producers, and could effectively force many producers out of the market completely. Due consideration must be given to the loss of livelihood for thousands of small farmers, their families and others who depend on the industry.
Given the significant contribution of banana exports to Jamaica’s socio-economic development, and considering that the sugar industry also faces similar difficulties, this latest proposal could severely compromise Jamaica’s ability to attain our Millennium Development Goals, including a substantial reduction in poverty by the year 2015. The Government of Jamaica urges the European Commission to reconsider this proposal, in keeping with its members’ longstanding commitment to supporting developing countries’ efforts to fulfil their development goals.
The Government of Jamaica has always been and will remain open to dialogue with the European Commission and other stakeholders on this matter.