Kellier urges Portland farmers to increase banana production

Kellier urges Portland farmers to increase banana production

Friday, February 27, 2015

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AGRICULTURE Minister Derrick Kellier has implored Portland farmers to reclaim their dominant position in banana production, as the country seeks to ramp up export of the crop to markets, such as the United Kingdom (UK).

Kellier said the re-entry of local bananas into the UK market in 2014, after a six-year hiatus, is a significant development, not just for the country's export sector, but also for Portland banana growers.

"Our aim for Portland farmers is for you to produce 30 per cent of the targeted amount for banana export within the short to medium term," he said.

"Farmers in Portland have been a part of the UK resumption and it is critical that we are committed, consistent, and professional in our supply to the export trade," the minister emphasised.

Kellier was speaking on Wednesday at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority's (RADA) annual open day, held at the Folly Oval in the parish. The event was held under the theme 'Agriculture: the foundation for sustainable economic growth'.

The minister said that as the Government works to increase the export of banana, the ministry plans to introduce an input scheme for farmers through the All Island Banana Growers' Association (AIBGA).

He also pledged continued technical support to farmers through the Banana Board and construction of a value-added facility to which Portland farmers will be given contracts to supply banana.

"I therefore urge you to work with the All Island Banana Growers' Association, the Banana Board, and RADA to make this new thrust for export banana really work," he pleaded.

Kellier also disclosed that the ministry is moving to resume banana cultivation in the parish of St James, adding that this will be done under the Banana Revitalisation Programme, which is being funded by the European Union.

The programme aims to spread the scope of banana cultivation and to mitigate the risks due to weather-related impacts.

"The new agro-parks in the west will respond to the enormous opportunities we have in the export markets, which require production at a scale and level of consistency which will make for competitiveness," the minister said.

He pointed out that in addition to bananas, enormous opportunities also exist for coconut, coffee, cocoa, and orchard crops.

In the meantime, the minister also encouraged farmers to take advantage of the training programmes available for Global GAP certification, noting that this is a critical requirement for the export market.

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