Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Grethel Sessing, chairman of the All Island Banana Growers Association (AIBGA), has given the assurance that the €4.73 million provided by the European Union for the four-year Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) programme will be put to good use.
"Let there be no doubt, we are committed to seeing an AIBGA that is accountable, provides worthwhile service to our farmers and implements sustainable projects," Sessing told The Gleaner. "We will implement strategies for membership growth and development so that the banana sector can once again lead Jamaica in better standards of living."
She declared: "I will also lend my voice, my health, my energy and my commitment to make the funds received from the BAM work for the good of the industry and Jamaica in general."
Sessing told The Gleaner that protection of the environment and promoting equal opportunities for women farmers are at the top of AIBGA's agenda, even as she spoke to more visible, tangible benefits that should flow from the lifeline provided by the BAM.
"In spite of the many challenges, the spirit of the farmers can be lifted today and comforted by the fact that when they walk into the AIBGA farm stores, the shelves will no longer be bare. Their produce will be attractively packaged, branded and marketed by their association, and even more rewarding is that they will be paid for the goods supplied, on a timely basis," she disclosed.
Encouraged by a recent survey finding that more than 90 per cent of Jamaicans eat bananas on a regular basis, the AIBGA chairman vowed to justify the European Union's faith in the industry by implementing strategies to rebuild the sector to ensure that all banana and plantain farmers enjoy a good return on their investment.
The programme is being implemented in St Thomas, St Catherine, Clarendon, St James, Portland and St Mary, with an estimated 1,400 farmers who are all members of the AIBGA set to benefit.