Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Clarke signs multimillion euro agreement - To assist local banana industry
May 15, 2002
The Gleaner

AGRICULTURE MINISTER Roger Clarke yesterday signed a five million euro (J$210-million) agreement with the European Commission to assist the local banana industry. The allocation brings to 15.6 million euro (J$624 million), the amount of money which has been granted to the industry under the EU's Special Framework of Assistance which began in 1995.

At the signing of the agreement at his Hope Road office, Mr. Clarke said that under the special assistance programme, 10.99 million euro (J$446,408 million) was allocated for the rehabilitation of the banana sub-sector between 1996 and 1998.

He said that in phases one and two between 1996 and 1997 the programme focused on input supply, water management, disease control and information systems. In 1999, he said, the emphasis was placed on fruit quality preservation, research and technology transfer.

"This continuing assistance has been invaluable to a developing country like ours, as we seek to grapple with the macroeconomic issues of free trade, poised against the need to improve the competitiveness and quality of our export product to meet the challenging demands of the global market," he said.

The minister said the signing of the agreement came in the face of increased marginalisation of small banana farmers whose contribution to the export market has declined.

Gerd Jarchow, head of delegation of the EU in Jamaica, said the agreement was part of the 1999 revised Banana Country Strategy which has been recently reviewed given the increasingly competitive environment and the developments observed in the domestic banana market. In particular, he said, the revision focused on improvement of the competitiveness of the banana industry and the introduction of alternative activities for those farmers who were unlikely to achieve competitiveness.

"The overall objective of the programme is to promote sustainable development in the traditional banana-growing area of Jamaica," he said. "Its purpose is to maintain and improve living standards of farmers in those areas, while having regard to the sustainable use of natural resource base," Mr. Jarchow said.

He said the agreement would benefit between 16,000 and 20,000 rural family members. In addition, he said, further EU support was planned to increase the productivity of the sector to improve yields and fruit quality, and to improve handling and marketing of Jamaican bananas.

Mr. Jarchow said that given the new EU banana regime, it was unlikely that the trend concerning the failure of small banana farmers would be reversed, but the aim of the EU Banana Support Programme was to organise the local suppliers of banana and plantains, differentiating these products and their by-products and introducing alternatives outside the banana sector.

"In this context, the EU Banana Support Programme's mandate has been adjusted to formally integrate all domestic activities, from production to marketing," he said.