The much anticipated Spring Gardens Agro Park in West Portland came closer to reality with the announcement of a J$108 million fund to get the park up and running.
These funds have been explicitly earmarked to support the Jamaica Banana and Plantain Industry (JBPI) through the agricultural competitiveness programme. The announcement was made Friday last by the Honourable Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation on behalf of the minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), the Honourable Karl Samuda.
“The park will provide an additional 146 acres of land designated for the production of bananas and plantains so that we can increase export earnings by J$172 million over the next three years. The export market stands at 107 million tonnes valued at more than US$25 billion.
“Jamaica enjoys less than one percent of that market, even as we have seen a steady increase from 78 tonnes in 2013 to 411 tonnes in 2016,” Minister Vaz declared while addressing participants at The Banana Day Observations and Farm Tour in Portland.
Against this background, the minister called on farmers to continue to apply the best international standards and agronomic practices to increase production and be assured of the sustainability of the Industry.
“Global G.A.P. certification is the stamp of approval of our produce, and the passport to international trade,” Minister Vaz said.
Janet Conie, general manager of The Banana Board, reinforced the position of the minister. “Global G.A.P Certification, an internationally recognised set of farm standards dedicated to good agricultural practices has opened up the way for farmers to capitalise on new opportunities to enter global markets. The Banana Board is the only certified producer organisation in Jamaica along with 52 farmers. Presently, Jamaica exports to the United Kingdom, Canada and The Cayman Islands; with Trinidad and Tobago to come on board for the first time; quite soon,” said Conie.
This was welcomed news for banana and plantain farmer, Byron Henry who now operates in the area designated to be the Agro Park. He sees the move as an opportunity to achieve optimum production levels and to enhance sustainability and meet expectations of the export market.
“My understanding is that the funds identified are for infrastructural works such as road and irrigation. If the promise is fulfilled this will be a good move. Currently, we experience a deficiency in water supply especially during the summer months. A
modern irrigation system will improve the viability of our business, boost production and productivity; allowing us to achieve the standard of ten tonnes per acre,” Henry said in reacting to the news, he deemed timely.
The Spring Gardens Agro Park will be the first of its kind where the production of bananas and plantains are concerned and also the first for the eastern parts of the island. It is expected that farmers will be allocated between four and 20 acres, a move that is aligned with MICAF’s strategic priorities to improve competitiveness and create an enabling environment for growth.