Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said that on October 16, a contract was signed with a UK entity for the supply of one container of bananas per week, which is expected to increase to 10 containers over time.
He informed further that last week, “the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago gave Jamaica phyto-sanitary clearance to export our bananas to their country.”
In June, Jamaica resumed banana shipments to the UK after a six-year absence from that market, due to the devastating effects of several hurricanes on the sector and changes in the preferential agreement with the UK.
The weekly shipments of the fruit, weighing 2,000 lb, continued up to the end of August, and the Ministry had informed that a UK buyer would arrive in Jamaica to negotiate long-term contracts for importing Jamaican bananas into Britain.
Minister Kellier, who was delivering the keynote address at the launch of the ‘Eat Jamaican Month’ Campaign today (November 5), at the Jamaica Agricultural Society’s (JAS) downtown Kingston offices, said the Ministry continues to seek new export markets for local produce through the Fresh Produce Consortium.
Earlier this year, a team from the Ministry, along with farmers and exporters, attended the London Produce Show as guests of the Fresh Produce Consortium, resulting in transactions to supply sweet potato, yam, Julie mangoes, ginger, Moringa, castor oil, a variety of herbs and spices and a range of fruits to that market.
“As we increase opportunities through the export platform, we continue to develop marketing arrangements with our partners in the USA (United States of America), and those in the UK,” Minister Kellier said.
He noted that the agro parks programme is aimed at boosting production for exports. He informed that the programme is being expanded, with some 8,000 hectares of “good agricultural lands” in western Jamaica earmarked for large-scale production.
“These agro parks will be located in …Enfield, Westmoreland; and Shettlewood, Mafoota and Sunderland in St. James. Given the enormous opportunities that exist in the export market, the agro parks will provide us with large-scale production at the level of consistency, which will make us competitive on the world market,” Minister Kellier pointed out.
He urged the private sector to help in building the “growth momentum” by using more local raw material, and to partner with farmers to achieve the levels of efficiencies required.”
He also called on the population to support the Eat Jamaican initiative, by consuming more local produce.
During the month of November, the JAS will be staging several exhibitions at schools, food establishments, and other public places to encourage the buying of local foods.
An essay competition will also be held in memory of the late Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Roger Clarke.