Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Roger Clarke says the Government is moving to reduce the importation of banana chips into the island. “I don’t see why we are importing banana chips when we can satisfy that market. It is going to stop, it must not continue,” Clarke said. He noted that last year the country imported US$8.4-million worth of banana chips, up from US $3.7 million in 2010.
The agriculture minister, who was addressing the annual Montpelier Agricultural and Industrial Show at Montpelier in St James on Monday, told the gathering that his ministry is taking steps to ensure that there is a significant increase in banana production. He noted that the ministry recently opened three plant nurseries where farmers can purchase high-yielding diseaseresistant banana varieties.
The nurseries, he said, were established at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education in Portland; Orange River Agriculture Station in St Mary and Knockalva Agricultural School in Hanover, through a grant of 134,542 euro from the European Union. There are also seven demonstration plots where farmers will be able to see the potential and learn more about growing the new varieties of the plants, he said.
“We expect the new varieties will result in a 30 per cent increase in cost efficiency and with increased volumes, will supply chip factories and other agri-businesses with fruits to extend the value chain and build a strong sustainable domestic market,” he argued. He encouraged the St James farmers to get the new varieties of bananas in an effort to reverse current production trends. The island’s banana production currently stands at 90,000 tonnes annually.
Meanwhile, Clarke said he was pleased to see the improvements made in the staging of this year’s Montpelier Agriculture Show as well as “the efforts of our farmers, who have remained resilient in the face of several challenges”.