Citrus exports could earn country millions -- Clarke
AGRICULTURE Minister Roger Clarke said the sector could earn millions of dollars from the marketing and export of unique varieties of citrus such as the Ortanique and the Ugli, which are regarded as exotic fruits.
The fruits are currently exported to Morocco, Spain and Florida, but data indicates that opportunities exist for expansion to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Guadeloupe, France and Germany, the minister said.
He was speaking at the recent signing of a contract for the public education component of the Citrus Replanting Project at the ministry's offices in Kingston.
The country's effort to market the products will, however, depend on the containment of the tristeza virus, which, coupled with the drought in 2000, caused a decline in the export of citrus.
Just under US$4 million was earned from the export of 5.6 million kilograms of citrus in 2000, a decline from earnings of US$4.5 from the export of 9.6 million kilograms of fruit in 1999.
"The focus now is on educating the farmers on the importance of replanting using certified plants," Clarke remarked.
He added that a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) survey conducted in Jamaica in 1995 showed that Jamaica had a strong competitive advantage in the citrus export market. The data also showed that the domestic market absorbs more than 87 per cent of citrus produced.
"While exports account for some 11 per cent, there is tremendous potential in the export market, which to date remains untapped," Clarke stated.