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Demand for Jamaican bananas remain strong

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 1:00 AM

In an April 2015 Ministry of Agriculture Paper titled, 'Banana Export Expansion Programme (BEEP),' it was noted that the demand for Jamaican bananas remains strong and that several hundred hectares of land were needed to facilitate it.

"In 2014, at least six major requests for bananas in the amount of approximately 667 tonnes weekly or 34,632 tonnes per year were received. A dedicated area of approximately 1,400 hectares will be needed to adequately supply this demand consistently," the paper stated.

"The price per tonne of Jamaican bananas had been reduced from more than £600 per tonne in 1997 to less than £400 per tonne in 2008 when export ceased," the paper added. "Currently, the price of export of Jamaican bananas to Canada and Cayman fetch farm gate prices as high as US$14.60 per box or £473.15 per tonne for cooking bananas ... . It is, therefore, absolutely important that a production expansion programme be implemented immediately to satisfy the demand for both local and export markets."

The paper noted that, once the expansion programme is implemented with appropriate and efficient husbandry practices, farms could achieve optimum production in seven to nine months. It also stated that the expected results of the programme include increased overall production of bananas by 50 tonnes or three containers per week, reduced importation of banana chips, increased growth in the agricultural sector and the provision of at least 115 jobs.

"Banana production, despite all the challenges faced, continue to be a major activity in the generation of employment and the maintenance of social stability in the banana producing districts, mainly in the parishes of St James, Portland and St Mary," the ministry paper continued.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Banana Board recognised that the industry had evolved to a point where the strong demand on the export market for Jamaican bananas is also mirrored in the domestic market. The current objective is to expand production with global standards and develop the industry to preserve its competitiveness on both the domestic and export markets," the paper concluded.