Gov’t to Embark on $250 Million Banana Export Expansion Programme

The Government of Jamaica is pumping $250 million into a project aimed at revitalising banana production for the export market.

The Banana Export Expansion Programme (BEEP), details of which were provided at an investment forum in Montego Bay recently, is targeted at new and existing farmers in the traditional banana-growing parishes of Portland, St. Mary and St. James.

Funding is being provided under the European Union (EU)-supported Jamaica Banana Accompanying Measures (JBAMS). The Banana Board is the implementing agency.

The $250 million investment by Government will go towards land divestment in priority agro parks, off farm irrigation infrastructure, and farm road improvement. Some $76.5 million will be distributed through JBAMs for material input supplies, Global Good Agricultural Practices (Global GAP) infrastructure, and Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) certification.

Farmers will receive support from JBAMS in the areas of training, certification, and technology transfer in both production and post harvest management. They will be required to provide 60 per cent of their production cost, while the remaining 30 per cent will be provided through the BEEP.

Farmers in St. James will benefit under the initiative, through several agro parks that are to be set up at Seven Rivers and Sunderland in the parish.

The parks, the first of which will be established in Seven Rivers, will function as incubators to ensure the expansion of production within global standards, and the development of the industry, while preserving its competitiveness for both the domestic and export markets.

At the Montego Bay investment forum, held at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) offices, the farmers and potential investors were provided with details about the project, including the registration process, cost of production, and market opportunities.

“It is still a work in progress and our forum with you is not only to give you information but also to get back some information from you so that the programme, when we implement it, is the best programme,” said Banana Board General Manager, Janet Conie.

The major components of BEEP include: upgrading of the tissue culture laboratory; facilitating ongoing exports of a single small container of banana; providing financial support through a revolving loan for material inputs required for production of the first crop; providing Global GAP infrastructure for strategic grouping of farmers: storeroom toilet, welfare facility; and facilitating Global GAP and FLO Certifications to ensure market access and premium prices.

The programme will also seek to address disaster mitigation; prevent Moco and Black Sigatoka diseases; and improve access of farmers to the Catastrophe Fund.

A series of natural disasters in the recent past have severely curtailed Jamaica’s banana production and as a result, the banana export market.

Strong efforts to revitalise the export market, due to high international demand for Jamaican bananas, have resulted in new markets in Canada and Grand Cayman, and a scaled back resumption of exportation to the United Kingdom, which was suspended in 2008.