Agriculture in decline
The Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry contracted by an estimated 0.5 per cent for the period January to March 2015, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) Director General Colin Bullock said on Wednesday.
This was attributed to an 11.6 per cent decline for traditional export crops and a 4.8 per cent fall in post-harvest activities. However, other agricultural crops grew by 3.5 per cent.
The fall-off in output for traditional export crops reflected mainly lower sugar cane production, stemming from the late start of the crop year because of significant upgrading activities at the island's two major factories. This resulted in a 21.2 per cent decline in total sugar cane production.
Lower output was also recorded for banana, down 3.8 per cent, and cocoa, down 60.9 per cent, reflecting the lingering impact of drought conditions. Coffee production, however, increased by 12.6 per cent.
Bullock said the recovery in the other agricultural crops components was due to the impact of more favourable weather conditions on short-term crops. Four of the nine crop groups within this component recorded improvement: fruits, up 10 per cent; potatoes, up 9.1 per cent; vegetables, up 4.9 per cent; and yams, up 4.8 per cent.
He said the prospects for the economy for the quarter to June 2015 are generally positive based on the anticipated strengthening of the performance of most industries relative to the similar quarter of 2014.
Growth is expected to be led by, among other sectors,
agriculture, driven by the continued recovery of crops within the other agriculture component from the 2014 drought conditions, as well as higher output from agro parks, reflecting increased land utilisation.
In addition, the traditional export crop component is expected to grow with the normalisation of activities in the production of sugar cane, reflecting improved efficiency associated with the installation of modern equipment at the two major sugar factories.
For the fiscal year 2015-16, real GDP growth of 1.7 per cent is projected based on increases of 3.1 per cent and 1.2 per cent in the goods-producing, and services industries, respectively.
This baseline forecast is predicated on the combined effect of a number of variables, including favourable weather conditions, which would facilitate improved agricultural production, Bullock said.
Director of the Economic Planning, Research and Policy Logistics Division at the PIOJ James Stewart said the agency expects agriculture to grow by about four per cent this year.