'Green gold' is on the rebound' Great demands for local bananas in Europe
IN RESPONSE to the growing demand for Jamaican bananas in the European market, the local Banana Board and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries are now getting ready to invest approximately J$76 million in the cultivation of more than 50 hectares of land at Seven Rivers and Sunderland, St James.
"We have the markets in England and Europe. The minister (Derrick Kellier), in his Budget presentation, spoke about going to England and meeting the buyers out there himself," said Dermon Spence, chief technical director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, while speaking at the recent farmers investment forum, which was hosted at the Western Regional offices of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority in St James.
Failing to fill demand
"... and there is a great demand for the product... . The problem we are having is that we are not getting enough of the fruit to pack the containers. What you (farmers) have is a guaranteed market at a guaranteed price, not something that is going to fluctuate like what happens locally," added Spence.
In support of the effort to boost banana export to the European market, the European Union is providing a grant of 4.73 million Euros to the Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures Programme, which is spearheading the effort to produce more bananas.
Regarding the project in St James, Spence said the plans for the expansion of banana production, starting with western Jamaica and Seven Rivers in particular, was based on the fact that the area is already equipped with irrigation infrastructure to easily facilitate the programme.
"Today is a day to roll out exactly the specifics of BEEP (Banana Export Expansion Programme)," said Spence. "In this particular meeting, our focus is on bananas; obviously the 'green gold' is on the rebound. We are really targeting expansion in banana production, and we are looking at Sunderland and Seven Rivers; there are plans afoot for other areas. What we want is for the farmers in the west to really make use of the opportunities and support what we are providing," said Spence.
Janet Conie, general manager of the Banana Board, said numerous calls have come from varying markets. However, she noted that the Banana Board and the ministry would be improving the quality of the product while seeking to identify niche markets to garner ultimate price for the product.
Under BEEP, farmers are expected to stand 63 per cent of material cost, while the ministry, through RADA, would provide the remaining 37 per cent through fertilisers, chemicals and technical support.