Banana is on its way back, and the Ministry of Agriculture through RADA is encouraging young farmers among others, to once again grow the commodity. The market has once again opened up in the UK and there is a growing market for Jamaican bananas in Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite the decline and subsequent cessation of exports following Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008 August, banana continues to be of importance, contributing significantly to rural employment in the parishes of Portland, St Thomas, St Mary and St James.
The domestic market remains important as Jamaicans consume` approximately 130,000 tons of bananas annually, with potential for significant increase to meet the increasing demand for value added products and that of the growing tourism sector.
In an effort to cater to these needs, the Ministry of Agriculture has developed a new banana policy framework and has created several strategies for implementation.
The new policy framework bolstered by the results of a capacity needs assessment survey, will form the basis of the long term development of the industry as well as provide the most appropriate mechanism for the provision of technical services to the industry.
The new strategy focus of the Jamaican government in relation to the banana sector is geared towards increasing competitiveness as well as the development of the local market.
The programme which has been referred to as The Banana Accompanying Measures -BAM- is the European Union’s (EU) final support package for banana exporters from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
On November 11, 2013, The EU and RADA officially signed a contract for the Programme Estimate. This signing saw the EU Commission committing €4.73 million or JMD equivalent $660 million to the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) programme.
The Programme is a direct response to the various challenges which are presently being experienced by the local banana sector.
With the implementation of the BAM it is expected that a greater focus will now be placed on building and improving the competiveness of the local banana and plantain industry.
The main results to be achieved by the programme are as follows:
• Increased production and productivity in farms and agribusiness enterprises
• Reinforced sustainability of extension and other technical services
• Increased availability of disease resistant, high quality planting material
• Improved cooperation and coordination of banana and plantain farmers to supply markets
To this end the BAM activities will be implemented primarily by three entities under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MOAF), these entities are RADA, the Banana Board and The All Island Banana Growers Association (AIBGA).
The ministry of agriculture through RADA will have overall oversight for the implementation of all BAM related activities. The activities to be performed by RADA includes but not limited to programme/project management support, technical assistance and monitoring as well as back stopping support to the various stakeholders.
The overall objective of the BAM is to combat poverty and improve revenue in the banana dependent areas through achieving the specific objectives of:
A. Improving the productivity and resilience of small farmers
B. Strengthening the link between small farmers and markets.
The funds which are being provided under BAMs is highly relevant to the target group and the final beneficiaries as it priorities smallholder agriculture, local producer groups and vulnerable groups.
The BAMs will aim at the heart of the challenges in the sector covering low productivity, weak linkages between producers and markets, high risk exposure of small farmers to natural disasters, high poverty rates in rural areas and environmental harmful practises.
The BAM is expected to further support the local sector in re-orientation towards the domestic markets whilst capitalizing from previous interventions and thus strongly linking the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAMs) with the Special Framework of Assistance (SFA).
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