Mon | Feb 19, 2018

Bananas break into Trinidad market

Published:Thursday | December 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Owen Brown (left) and Ralston Allen, farmers from the Wood Hall farm in St Catherine, on their way to the market with bananas.

Today's landmark shipment of a container of bananas to Trinidad marks a significant achievement for the Banana Board, as well trade for Jamaica in terms of the potential for increased trade with its CARICOM partner.

"We think it's phenomenal because other people try to get in and can't get into Trinidad," Janet Conie, general manager of the Banana Board, told The Gleaner.

Concerns by the authorities in the twin-island republic about the likelihood of drugs being packaged in shipments from Jamaica had been one the much-touted reason for some of the difficulties faced by Jamaican business in getting in to that market, so it took a lot of behind-the-scenes work by the Banana Board in Trinidad to finally get the go-ahead for today's first such shipment.

 

Certification help

 

"We have issues with the pest risk analysis and that kind issue, but the Global GAP certification paved the way. We had to do some strategic things and work to find people who really wanted the fruit and would be willing to go the long haul," Conie further said.

Today's shipment is comprised of between 900 and 1,000 boxes containing 18 kilogrammes (40 pounds) of the fruit destined for the ripe-banana trade. This initial contract is for one container per week for the six months, with the option of upping it to three containers per week thereafter.

From the Trinidad end, the success is due largely to a businessman's appreciation for the high quality of the Jamaican fruit.

This businessman is the largest importer of bananas into Trinidad.

He had a chance to visit fields in Jamaica and see the steps in banana cultivation, harvesting, and packing. The deal was sealed after he sampled the ripe fruit.

"The quality of Jamaican fruit is really what is the distinguishing factor, and what we are doing with certification, technology transfer and extension services is helping the small farmers to come up to the level that they can," Conie explained.

... Eyeing potatoes and yam for export, too

"He wanted to see what we have, and because the quality is so good, he wants to up his price over there. We want him to up the price over here as well, so we think that six months will give us enough leeway to increase output. He is going to distribute in the Massy group, and at least 20 of the retailers are already asking for Jamaican bananas. We have a lot of fruit that's going to come in very soon in the Spring Gardens Agro Park, a lot of young fields that are coming in, all for this market."

The Trinidad-based businessman is already exploring the option of importing potato and yam as well from Jamaica.

"He is trying to get a permit for potatoes and yam, so they can get that from Jamaica as well.

This is paving the way for other crops and other products because the trade between Trinidad and Jamaica comes one-way. It is significant that it is now going the other way, and this now will make openings for other things to go the other way," the general manager argued.