KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Stakeholder activities under a $677.85-million (€5-million) European Union (EU) grant-funded programme to revitalise Jamaica’s banana sector, which had been seriously impacted by the weather in recent years, are far advanced. The Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAM) Programme, being implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), aims to spur increased production and other key outcomes, following recent fallouts caused by hurricanes and tropical storms, among other weather-related events. Its implementation commenced in 2012 following the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008, which ravaged thousands of acres of banana, resulting in farmers incurring billions of dollars in losses, and industry activities scaling down over the ensuing three years. Agricultural Attaché with the EU Delegation in Jamaica, Stefano Cillí, tells JIS News that the JBAM allocation is part of approximately $6.7 billion (€50 million) in overall funding support extended to the industry over the last 10 years. He indicates that the JBAM allocation has been funding stakeholder activities aimed at boosting the industry’s operations to world-class standards. These include provisions to the Banana Board and All Island Banana Growers Association (AIBGA) to facilitate technical support and capacity building; and direct inputs for farmers and other stakeholders targeting infrastructure development, and enabling farmers to attain Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification in order to export. Global GAP is the international organisation that assures the implementation of safe, sustainable agricultural practices worldwide. The certification exercise is being administered by the Board under the EU-funded Banana Export Expansion Programme (BEEP). Programme Coordinator for JBAM at RADA, Vaughn Barnaby, tells JIS News that the entity has been pivotal in the project’s implementation. He says RADA’s undertaking has included facilitating the Banana Board’s production of approximately 120,000 tissue culture plantlets per annum for distribution to farmers in the five main banana-producing parishes where JBAM is being implemented. The beneficiary parishes are St Catherine, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary and St James. There are approximately 2,000 farmers and some 3,500 acres under cultivation islandwide. Barnaby explains that provision of the plantlets is expected to contribute to increased productivity by the farmers, thereby better positioning them to meet the domestic demand, tap into prospective export markets and strengthen their foothold in existing ones. Additionally, he says the AIBGA is being supported in constructing a $30-million processing facility in St Mary. Work, which started in December 2016, is slated for completion by the end of March. Barnaby points out that the facility will enable the farmers and other stakeholders to get involved in value-chain production.
“So, instead of just (delivering) fresh produce, they can produce banana and plantain chips and, in the future, look at other banana products. We are actually empowering the growers to be involved further along the value chain, which will provide more income and profits. We are positioning the entire industry to be more profitable,” he says.
Approximately 1,600 farmers are expected to benefit from the overall activities, which Barnaby anticipates will have positive outcomes for stakeholders and their families in the predominantly banana-producing areas. “We will positively impact those to enable more sustainable rural development and a stable rural economy,” he adds.
source. Jamaica Observer