BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau email@example.com
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society Norman Grant, claiming that Jamaica's coffee industry is in a "state of emergency", has called for a major resuscitation programme as part of the Government's push for recovery and growth in the national economy.
Grant told the half-yearly meeting of the Manchester Association of Branch Societies of the JAS here recently that a crucial aspect of any recovery programme for coffee will be the eradication of the coffee leaf rust disease, which has been wreaking havoc on coffee farms.
The JAS head said the disease, which attacks the leaves of the coffee plant and reduces the production of berries, could cost producers of Blue Mountain and non-Blue Mountain coffee some four to five million US dollars in earnings.
"The Jamaica Agricultural Society, along with the Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association, are extending ourselves to our Government to say let us look at a programme that can again resuscitate the coffee industry," Grant said.
"What the JAS is calling for is a massive programme of resuscitation of our coffee farms in Jamaica" both in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere, said Grant, a government senator as well as coffee farmer and processor.
Experts say leaf rust is the most devastating and widespread disease affecting coffee worldwide.
Pointing to the extent of the crisis facing the coffee industry which has been in decline for more than a decade, Grant noted that in the 1980s and 1990s, Jamaica was producing "in the region of seven million pounds of coffee annually". That production figure had now fallen to only about 2.5 million pounds annually, he said.
The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) Economic and Social Survey says earnings from Jamaica's coffee exports fell from US$27.15 million in 2007 to US$18.32 million in 2011. Declining demand in the major Japanese market has been identified as a major factor.
However, in identifying the size of the Jamaican coffee retail market as being worth J$2.3 billion, Grant said $1.5 billion was being filled by imported coffee "at a time when we are saying let us grow what we eat and eat what we grow".
"Coffee is the second-largest trading commodity in the world and if we can get the coffee industry going again, I can tell you it is going to bring significant income to the Jamaican economy," said Grant.