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Jamaica News - Real Estate - Agriculture (February 19, 2005)
EU pours $280-m into banana industry
The European Union (EU) has approved $280 million for the resuscitation of the banana industry following the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan last September.

Vincent Thompson, manager for the EU's Banana Support Programme, told JIS News that the initiative was part of the EU's long-term commitment to improve the efficiency of the sector and enhance competitiveness.

He said the assistance would be distributed in the form of inputs such as fertiliser and chemicals for disease control, and would enhance efforts by the Banana Export Company to provide farmers with the necessary material support to aid in the replanting process.

Thompson expressed appreciation to the EU for the support it has given to the banana industry over the years and expressed confidence that the assistance would enable farmers to become resilient and overcome the challenges with which they were confronted.

Hurricane Ivan destroyed a total of 2,280 hectares of crop in the six principal banana-producing parishes, with 100 per cent of standing crop and 95 per cent of maiden crop lost. Some 8,000 farmers were affected.

Thompson said that the industry was recovering satisfactorily, with all domestic and export producers already replanting. He estimated that production would be at 20 per cent of pre-Ivan levels by March and all farms were projected to be back in full production by the end of July.

Gerd Jarchow, the EU's head of delegation to Jamaica, said the assistance, worth J$288 million, is designed to help Jamaican banana farmers cope with the changing world market.

"It is clear to all that very few farmers, not even the large estates, would be able to meet the cost of the agro-chemicals required for proper resuscitation," Jarchow said.

"We are witnessing today a great achievement and the result of efforts by many of the stakeholders of the European Banana Support Programme," he added.

Jarchow said the EU was still working on a mechanism to provide direct assistance to small and medium-sized farmers to help them meet their labour costs.

Jarchow disclosed that since 1996 the EU has donated approximately J$3.8 billion (euro48 million) to securing the economic viability of Jamaica's banana industry and improving the standard of living in many rural areas.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke thanked the EU for its "ongoing intervention in one of our main traditional exports which continues to make a significant contribution to the Jamaican economy".

He said that the average annual earnings for banana exports amount to US$26 million, and this was expected to increase to US$35 million in the next three years.

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