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November 19, 2008

Jamaica's banana future looks bleak

Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, painted a bleak picture of the future of the banana industry recently, during a sitting of the House of Representatives.

"What we need to do is to move with the land resources we have, the infrastructure that is there to see how we can diversify," Golding told the House. Already, the chief producers of banana for export have pulled out of production. The straw that broke the camel's back was tropical storm Gustav, which destroyed a vast percentage of banana crops in eastern Jamaica.

"What we want to do is to secure an orderly disengagement, but a new engagement into something possible and that can offer a better quality of life for the farmers that are involved," he added.

Caribbean and other countries in the 77-nation African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group are fighting to have their bananas enter European markets at a preferential rate. Under a regime that came into effect two-and-a-half years ago, the ACP group of countries can export up to 775,000 tonnes of bananas annually to the EU duty-free. Other exporters have to pay a tariff of €176 a tonne.

However, a WTO dispute panel this year, on a complaint by Ecuador, ruled that the EU quota tariff was unfair and incompatible with its regime. The EU has said it would accept a WTO proposal for the European trade bloc to reduce banana import tariffs from €176 per tonne to €116 by year 2015. However, according to Golding, banana producers here would still not be able to compete even with that protection.

Jamaica Gleaner News

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