Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Banana industry braces for another hit

Published:Monday | June 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
One of several banana farms in St Thomas destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

SIGNIFICANT SHOWERS and thunderstorms will continue to affect Jamaica because of a trough that will influence local weather conditions for at least the next three days, according to the Meteorological Service.

In a release yesterday, the Meteorological Service advised that even though less rain has been falling in eastern parishes, a persistent trough will maintain unstable weather conditions until Wednesday. The forecast is for widespread showers and scattered thunderstorms over eastern and some southeastern parishes.

A small-craft warning remains in effect for offshore areas of southern waters because of strong winds and choppy seas in the vicinity of showers and thunderstorms.

While welcoming the break in the prolonged drought which has seen banana production fall by at least 25 per cent over the last crop, Grethel Sessing, chairman of the All Island Banana Growers' Association (AIBGA), is fearful that the showers could bring mixed blessings. She is hopeful that the forecast for a less-than-average hurricane season, which runs from today till November 30, will be spot on.

"To come out of a drought and go into a hurricane, that would be a disaster. So we are hoping that we have some rains, but not anything like a tropical storm or a hurricane. The industry couldn't take that right now, as we are in the process of rebuilding," she told The Gleaner.

The AIBGA has been working to increase its acreage by extending production in western Jamaica, as well as rehabilitating old plantations, in order to meet export demand, but is nowhere near ready, Sessing admitted.

"We really need the break (from the weather) because we have been targeting markets, but we have not been able to supply them because we went through the hurricane and then the drought," she explained. "We are supplying the local market, but we were hoping by now we would be in a position to do at least one 20-foot container, which is 450 boxes per week. We are not there yet. So any major hurricane or whatever now would be a disaster; it would have derailed our programme."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com