Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Jamaica’s growth streak ends as rain, beet armyworm take toll

Published:Friday | October 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson

Jamaica has broken its more-than-two-year growth streak. The economy contracted by 0.1 per cent in the June quarter, according to new data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, Statin, due to unfavourable weather and the devastation of crops from the beet armyworm infestation.

Jamaica's economy last contracted in the December 2014 quarter when GDP shrank by 0.2 per cent.

Statin said the main contributors to the current decline were the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which fell by 9.5 per cent, and mining and quarrying, down 10.9 per cent.

The southern parts of St Elizabeth and Manchester were the main parishes affected by the beet armyworm, Statin said.

President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Norman Grant, had warned back in May that the losses from infestation could top $100 million due to the severity of the damage to crops in those areas.

The Ministry of Agriculture said then that surveillance by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority indicated a swell in the population of the beet armyworm and that the pests have already destroyed more than 150 acres of scallion, onion, tomato, cucumber, callaloo, and beet.

Statin also reported a reduction in the production of root crops, which decreased by 8.5 per cent, as well as vegetables, which decreased by 20.2 per cent. The total area of vegetables reaped fell to 4,342.2 hectares from 5,099.2 hectares last year, a 15 per cent decline.

Traditional export crops also fell, mainly resulting from a 37 per cent decline in sugar cane production linked to weather-induced suspension of operations at two main sugar factories, Golden Grove and Monymusk. Cocoa production also fell by 76 per cent as the frosty pod disease continued to impact the crop.

Animal farming remained relatively unchanged for the review period, while banana rose from 15,087 tonnes to 16,471 tonnes and plantain production rose from 11,125 tonnes to 11,378 tonnes.

In the mining sector, alumina production fell to 426.5 thousand tonnes from 477.4 thousand tonnes, while crude bauxite declined to 862.8 thousand tonnes from 1,017.7 thousand tonnes. The sector was affected by heavy rainfall as well as malfunctioning equipment at one of the factories.

Lower output levels in crude bauxite production were influenced largely by the loss of one of the major markets.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com