As everyone knows, Jamaica is undergoing the worst economic crisis in its history. No minister of finance has produced a long-term plan that will reduce the national indebtedness, boost productivity and production, provide employment and stimulate commerce. Yet it is common knowledge that solving those problems remains crucial to creating a self-sustaining economy.
I suggest that far more attention needs to be given to agriculture. And one aspect of agriculture that merits attention is exploiting the many varieties of mangoes in Jamaica for stimulating the agroindustrial sector.
Jamaica has a large variety of delicious mangoes. Neighbouring countries like Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic list more than 100 varieties in their territories. More than 109 varieties are cultivated in the agricultural complex at Salinas in southern Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic has a mango festival that displays more than 115 different kinds of mangoes.
Jamaica needs to get on the mango boat. Mangoes are a fantastic investment. Mango trees are perfect for the environment. They are hardy, attractive, and require little year-round attention and live for centuries. The trees can also be enormously productive, and some varieties yield harvests all year round. So the mango tree can be an excellent ground cover at the same time that it contributes to the diet and the general economy.
Apart from the direct agricultural impact, mangoes could also be a source of industrial production. Mangoes are marketed directly to consumers. But the value could be expanded by canning and boxing the juice. If the cans and boxes are made locally, as they should be, then the economic linkages can be a boon to employment.
Finally, there are the much-touted health benefits of eating mangoes. There are claims that mangoes are good for treating acne and combating iron deficiencies. The antioxidant characteristics of mangoes help fight cancer and heart disease. Mangoes are loaded with Vitamins C and E, and moreover are an excellent source of dietary fibre. Vitamin C combats high cholesterol; and Vitamin E boosts memory power and sex drive.
Covering the island with mango trees might even be great for international tourism. In any case, with several thousand varieties of mangoes in Asia and the ease with which varieties can be cross-bred, mango cultivation offers Jamaica another option for economic salvation.