Letter of the Day | Clarity on banana exports to EU
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I refer to the article that appeared in The Sunday Gleaner (of January 28, 2018) in the In Focus section titled 'Jamaicanise the banana protocol', by Jolyan Silvera. This article reflected a misunderstanding of the ACP-EU regime for the export of bananas to the EU, specifically to the UK. In this regard, please note that the facts are as follows:
The Banana Protocol existed from 1975-2000 under the ACP-EU Lome Conventions and provided duty-free access to the EU, mainly UK market, for ACP bananas under quota arrangements. Thus, Jamaica had a quota for exporting bananas.
In 1996, with the advent of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the EU's existing banana regime for the ACP was challenged in a dispute brought by Latin American banana producers and the USA supporting its companies involved in banana production and export, such as Dole and Chiquita. The case lasted from 1996-2009 and was resolved in the favour of the Latin Americans and the USA.
It concluded with the 2009 WTO Geneva Agreement. Tariffs were agreed for bananas imported into the EU from Latin America. These tariffs were further reduced in free trade agreements between the EU and countries of Central America and the Andrean group.
The 2000 ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement had transitional arrangements for trade as the EU was about to commence negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements for trade with the six ACP regions.
In 2008, the EU and the ACP Caribbean countries (CARIFORUM) concluded the EPA under which bananas from the Caribbean would be exported to the EU duty free and quota free.
Between 2000 and 2008, Jamaica's exports of bananas to the EU (primarily the UK) were severely impacted by hurricanes and other weather events. Jamaica ceased to export bananas to the UK after 2008. Small quantities have been exported since 2014.
The UK market is now dominated by bananas from Latin America and the large African producers. The Caribbean countries still exporting to the EU are the Dominican Republic, Belize and possibly Suriname.
The issue for Jamaica now is whether it can compete in the UK market with the Latin Americans and Africans, who are producing at a much lower cost of production, and remain viable given the prices in the UK market.
With the UK now to leave the EU, any discussions on bananas would be in the context of the roll-over of the EPA, which is now being addressed between CARIFORUM and the UK.
It should be noted that the UK will have to take account of the WTO decisions. It should not be expected that the arrangements for exporting bananas can be returned to those existing at the time of the Lome Conventions.
Red Hills Gardens