PIOJ says agriculture to help drive growth
Director for the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) Economic Planning, Research and Policy Logistics Division, James Stewart, says the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector is expected to be one of the main drivers of economic growth during the 2017/18 fiscal year.
He made this claim although the sector recorded a flat out-turn during the July to September quarter, consequent on adverse weather earlier in the year. "We expect agriculture to grow in the region of five per cent," Stewart said.
He was speaking at the PIOJ's recent quarterly media briefing held at the agency's head office in New Kingston.
While acknowledging that the September quarter out-turn was flat compared to the corresponding period in 2016 when the sector soared to 28.8 per cent, the highest figure since 1988, Stewart said this performance should not be discounted.
"The sector is not really underperforming. (Yes) it's flat relative to last year ... but it is at a very high level (compared to the 8.5 per cent contraction for April to June)," he contended.
Domestic crop production sees increase
Director General, Dr Wayne Henry, said that the September 2017 quarter out-turn represents the industry's partial recovery from the impact of torrential rains earlier this year. Specifically, he said it reflects an increase in domestic crop production.
Henry explained that the initial fall in production resulted from a three per cent contraction in three of nine domestic crops, with potatoes and yams recording the largest declines of 10.9 per cent each.
He further advised that vegetables fell by 1.7 per cent, while cocoa production decreased by 38.5 per cent due to the effects of Frosty Pod Rot.
Henry indicated that there was a 3.4 per cent fall-off in the area of crops reaped, pointing out that seven parishes recorded declines in production ranging from 4.5 per cent for Westmoreland to 26.2 per cent in St Catherine.
Conversely, Henry said traditional exports grew by 9.1 per cent, largely reflecting higher sugar-cane output, up 101.5 per cent; banana, up 2.5 per cent; and coffee, up 65 per cent.
"The increase recorded for sugar cane reflected the extended processing period to the month of August, to compensate for factory downtime during the previous quarters. Traditionally, harvesting activities end in the latter part of June to early July," Henry explained.
He further told journalists that post-harvest activities rose by 51.3 per cent, reflecting the increase in coffee production, among other crops.
The PIOJ reports that the economy grew by an estimated 0.9 per cent over the July to September quarter, after contracting by 0.1 per cent between April and June.