Ministry targets more agro parks in western Jamaica

BY TERRON DEWAR Business reporter dewart@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 24, 2014

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THE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is looking to establish additional agro parks in western Jamaica.


The ministry initially has its eye on identifying 115 hectares of suitable lands in the parishes of Westmoreland, St James and Hanove.


Rural St James in particular, is being targeted for the cultivation of banana for the export trade.


While a definite location for the construction of an agro park is yet to be finalised, the Seven Rivers property in St James is being examined closely as it has an irrigation system in place, said Donovan Stanberry, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.


Increasing the volume of banana that is cultivated in the western end of the island is a "welcome and strategic move," said Grethel Sessing, chairman of the All Island Banana Growers Association.


St James is home to a number of large plantations that are no longer in use, and these areas have been zoned to be good for banana production, Sessing told the Observer.


Cultivating more of the country's banana in the western end of the island is also a strategic counterbalance to the damaging effects that hurricanes and drought tend to have on crops in the eastern end of the island.


Greater diversification in the areas zoned for banana production will help to prevent a total collapse of the banana industry after the occurrence of natural disasters she said.


Jamaica exported over 22,000 tons of banana yearly, before hurricane Gustav hit the country in 2008. Since then, the industry has struggled to return to productivity.


It is projected that if the government follows through on the plan to bolster banana production in the western end of the island beginning in January 2015, the country's banana productivity levels will return to 50 per cent of the pre-Gustav output.


If good conditions prevail, Sessing projects that by year two of the programme, the industry could equal the 22,000 tons it exported in 2008.


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