The Jamaican banana industry is rebounding and generating employment in the parishes of St. James, Portland and St. Mary. According to Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, strategies implemented by the Banana Board resulted in the production of 55,000 tonnes of the fruit in 2015, a three per cent increase over the previous year.
He said Jamaica earned US$160 million from export of the fruit, and in the last year it recorded a 51 per cent increase in bananas being sold in overseas markets, such as the Cayman Islands, the United States, and the United Kingdom. “This highlights the need for Jamaican farmers to embrace the opportunity for even greater increase in production for export, based on market demand,” the Minister said.
He was delivering the keynote address at a banana forum, held on July 20, at the All Island Banana Growers’ Association (AIBGA) farm supply outlet, in Trinity, St. Mary. The event was held to hand over planting materials to banana farmers, and to extend infrastructural support valued at $53.5 million, under the Banana Export Expansion Programme (BEEP), supported by the European Union (EU).
“This will assist farmers in achieving best practices, and ultimately attain Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP),” the Minister said. He renewed his call for more value-added products to be made from agricultural produce.
Among the initiatives undertaken by the Banana Board to increase production and productivity was the introduction of new varieties of banana and plantain. The varieties introduced from Honduras produce bunches that yield 25 to 50 per cent more than the conventional Cavendish banana variety, and the Horse or Horn plantain. The new varieties are also highly tolerant to the black Sigatoka disease, and are more suitable for cooking and processing.