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Banana growers receive vital injection of funds

Published:Saturday | May 5, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Grethel Sessing (centre), president of the All-Island Banana Growers' Association, discusses the implications of the 180,000 euro grant with members of her executive following yesterday's signing ceremony at the Banana Board Building in Kingston. Sharing in the occasion (from left) are Talman Richards, director of the Portland region; Vice-Chair Morris Smith, St James Director Norvel Chambers and Richard Campbell, another Portland director.

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

THE EUROPEAN Union's recent grant of $20.7m will go towards revitalising the All-Island Banana Growers' Association (AIBGA) which is the sole banana growers' association, but which in recent years has been inactive.

The capital injection will reposition the association to, among other things, develop a structured marketing system to allow it to compete in promoting a range of value added products. The project is a precursor to the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) which is slated to get under way in 2013.

Grethel Sessing, president of the AIBGA, explained that this intervention will result in improved support services to farmers that will redound to the benefit of their families and communities.

"We expect that within the next two to three years, the AIBGA should see stronger and more coherent district branches, area councils and vibrant growers' organisation better able to respond to their needs and improved material supply outlets," she told the signing ceremony.

While the one-year project will be implemented by the AIBGA, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority and European Union Banana Support Programme, with the Banana Board and other stakeholders, will provide support.

Sessing used the occasion to challenge Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke to use his office to lobby for a market for agricultural produce, in much the same way as the island's tourism product is marketed internationally.

Issues to be addressed

Meanwhile, Clarke stressed the importance of the AIBGA reorganising its operations to mobilise its membership to effectively address issues such as those which led to last year's importation of US$8.7 million worth of banana chips, more than doubling the US$3.4 million imported in 2010.

Making a case about the popularity of banana as the third-most preferred starch in the diet of most locals, after rice and flour, Clarke cited a recent survey which showed that 98 per cent of Jamaicans eat bananas regularly. While the industry employs in excess of 6,000 persons, production is still well below the desired level, the agriculture minister admitted.

Said he: "We are not yet where we want to be, with production marginally below 90,000 tonnes as at 2010, an increase of 17.5 per cent over 2009. I believe we could call this a fresh start."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com

CAPTION: Grethel Sessing (centre), president of the All-Island Banana Growers' Association, discusses the implications of the 180,000 euro grant with members of her executive following yesterday's signing ceremony at the Banana Board Building in Kingston. Sharing in the occasion (from left) are Talman Richards, director of the Portland region; Vice-Chair Morris Smith, St James Director Norvel Chambers and Richard Campbell, another Portland director.