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Pineapple farmers want PM to assist ailing industry

Published:Wednesday | September 24, 2014 | 9:00 AM

Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU: AS PINEAPPLE farmers continue to incur heavy financial losses, the Jamaica Pineapple Growers' Association wants the Government to intervene immediately to stem their losses.

Everton Farquharson, president of the association, said farmers are reeling from losses due to the mealy bug infestation, inability to take the product to market because of poor road conditions and high price of fertilisers.

"Since 2009, we have had a 30 per cent decline in pineapple production. So, in the year 2010, local production of the fresh fruit, as valued by the databank of the Ministry of Agriculture, was at $1.97 billion, with imports of pineapple fruit and concentrate at $233.6 million," explained Farquharson.

He said the reduction in yields forces importation of the fruit and concentrate.

Farquharson contends that the issues were previously discussed with the former Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke at a meeting at his office in February and at another meeting at Ginger Hill, St Elizabeth. He noted that Clarke had indicated that, by May this year, he would have begun to address the farmers' concerns.

"Minister Clarke had said that he wanted to return to us in St Elizabeth, in May, because some fertiliser would have been secured for distribution. He also wanted to deal with the mealy bug infestation of the pineapple fields, which was an urgent concern, and to continue discussions with Jamaica Social Investment Fund to establish a small processing plant in Ginger Hill."

He said Minister Clarke had also instructed technocrats from the Bodles Research Station to deal with the mealy bug infestation, and had also given instruction for the farm road in the area to be repaired.

"So, Madam Prime Minister, we are here awaiting you and the one who will take over the mantle of agriculture minister to continue the work started by Minister Clarke and, in particular, to address the needs of our farmers as promised," said Farquharson.

barrington.flemming@gleanerjm.com