Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, speaking during a visit to the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC) Complex in Kingston on Friday“We are going to get the people in the agro parks, who have the benefit of irrigation and a lot of technical assistance to be part of this programme, to ensure the sustainability of supply of good quality bananas to meet the export market,” he said.
Minister Kellier was observing the packaging of bananas for export, said that agricultural lands have been identified in western Jamaica, particularly St. James, for the growing of banana for export.
“They are nearer to the port and it will be easier for the exporters; there is less transportation cost, and less chance of the fruit being damaged while being transported. That is a traditional area, which has a lot of lands and anxious farmers that want to get back into production,” the Minister pointed out.
Last June, Jamaica resumed banana shipments to the United Kingdom (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. In October, contracts were signed to boost supply to the UK market.
Demand for banana is also increasing in North America and CARICOM. Recently, Trinidad and Tobago gave clearance for the produce to enter its territory.
Minister Kellier noted that banana for the export market must meet certain quality standards.
He informed that under the $660 million (€4.73 million) European Union (EU)-funded Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) programme, farmers across the island are receiving assistance with the preparation of fields and reaping of the fruit, which will ensure that the fruit is of the highest quality.
“Everything has to be up to certain standards. We want to make sure that they (farmers) follow all the rules of good agricultural practices,” he said, while noting that special measures are in place to ensure traceability of the produce.
Minister Kellier, in the meantime, hailed exporters for their role in securing overseas markets for the fruit.
Last year, some 53,000 tonnes of banana were produced in Jamaica, all of which found market, with 200 tonnes exported.
“There are good days ahead for banana. We thank them (exporters) for that positive move. Our farmers will definitely benefit, it will create more employment, we will earn foreign exchange and it will be better for the country,” he said.
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