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1 Introduction

1.1 Structure of the agriculture sector and contribution to the economy

The total agricultural land area of Jamaica was 407 434 ha representing 187 791 holdings at the time of the last agricultural census in 1996. Eighty percent of the land is hilly or mountainous. The island is crossed by a range of mountains reaching 2 256 m at the Blue Mountain Peak (the highest point) in the east and descending towards the west with a series of spurs and forested gullies running north and south. Jamaica has a tropical climate. Daytime temperatures hover around 32.2°C, with nights about 9°C cooler. The vegetation is mainly tropical.

Jamaica’s agrarian landscape is typified by inequities in land size and quality between small farms and plantations. Large plantations and pastures dominate the fertile coastal plains while small farmers are confined mainly to the rugged interior. Small farmers - those with farms of five acres (2.02 ha) and less - constitute some 78 percent of the farming community and produce mainly root crops, pulses and vegetables. Large-scale farms account for less than 1 percent of the total number but occupy about 39 percent of farm lands producing mainly sugar, bananas, coffee, pimento and, to a lesser extent, citrus and cocoa for the export market.

Between 1991 and 2000, agriculture’s contribution to GDP ranged between 9.2 percent in 1995 and 7.1 percent in 2000. When agro-processed goods are added, the contribution to GDP is about 16 percent. Agricultural production has a multiplier effect on the economy as it links with other activities such as transportation, marketing, tourism and local commerce. In Jamaica, agriculture continues to be integrally related to rural development. Its contribution to containing crime and maintaining social stability in both rural and urban areas continues to be significant as it helps to reduce problems of rural/urban migration.

Agriculture employs about 22 percent of the labour force (roughly 250 000 persons), supports 150 000 small farm families and contributes to the food security of the nation. In view of the problems of widespread poverty, high unemployment and the importance of agriculture as a major employer of labour, agriculture will continue to play a vital role in the country’s overall development.

1.2 Recent sector performance

Agricultural production in the period 1981-1990 with 1981 = 100 fluctuated between a low of 90 points and a high of 110. This was followed by a steady increase in general agricultural production over the period 1990-1996 during which the overall increase was about 52 percent. However, after a significant decrease in 1997, production has continued to decline until 2000. In 2001, total production increased by 5.5 percent over the previous year. Flood rains experienced in May and June 2002 are expected to have a negative impact on production for 2002.

A number of factors contributed to the buoyancy in production over the 1990-1996 period. This was notably a period in which the agricultural sector was recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Gilbert. The Jamaican dollar was devalued considerably during this period. Increases were also propelled by the imperative to improve productivity in the face of increased competition in the global economy.

Since 1996, the decline in production has been attributable to adverse weather conditions, high interest rates on farm loans and the consequent contraction of investment in the sector as well as the overall decline in the economy. The impact of adverse weather conditions during a particular calendar year continues to have an impact on successive periods of production as the tendency is for farmers to plant less in the ensuing years, possibly as a result of reduced funds available for replanting. Also, during the 1996-2001 period, the surge in imports of agricultural products started to have an impact on domestic production as some sections of the local market were replaced with more competitively priced and packaged imported products.

Exports of traditional commodities, mainly sugar and bananas, continue to dominate the sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings, contributing about 65 percent of total export earnings in the year 2000. Preservation of preferential trade agreements for these products is critical to Jamaica’s short- to medium-term WTO strategy.

Non-traditional crops, e.g. tubers, fruits, vegetables and spices, experienced significant increases since 1990, owing to the positive effects of devaluation and aggressive marketing strategies adopted for papayas, yams, plantains, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Irish potatoes and onions, however, were displaced to a large extent by imports as they were not competitive. Despite the increased competition on the domestic market, a number of non-traditional products were able to hold their own in the market. About 80 percent of purchases of food items by hotels in Jamaica in 1997 consisted of domestically produced crops. This is an important linkage that needs to be strengthened.

1.3 Policy changes and programmes over the last two decades

During the 1980s and 1990s, Jamaica implemented extensive policy changes under World Bank and IMF-led structural adjustment programmes, which defined the parameters of trade liberalization in Jamaica. This course is now being institutionalized by the WTO. The specific policy changes included:

In addition, there were other liberalization policies adopted at the macroeconomic level that also had an impact on the sector, for example, the abolition of foreign exchange controls.

The general assessment of the impact of these changes on the agricultural sector is that the sector still needs to make further important adjustments to become more competitive. The changes were accompanied by both costs and benefits for the economy and various interest groups. Some argue that the process of removal of tariffs and quotas, etc. should have taken place over a longer period of time (“they were too much and too fast”). A number of small producers of crops such as onions and Irish potatoes were ruined as a result of the superior quality and more competitive prices of the imported products.

On the positive side, liberalization assisted the Commodity Boards to adopt a more business-oriented approach generally, and more private individuals were able to participate in improving their management and general operation. As a result of increased competition on the domestic market, some small farmers became more conscious of standards generally as well as the need to improve the presentation of their products particularly in the supermarkets.

Consumers benefited from some of these developments. In particular, imports of milk powder became more affordable for lower-income groups. The government’s policy to maintain a low- or single-digit rate of inflation in the economy was also helped by lower prices of imported milk and other products. However, the domestic milk industry has been severely decimated as a result of opening the domestic market to unfair competition from heavily subsidized milk imports.

Importers and retailers generally were also big winners as their businesses thrived while some small farmers lost market share and, in some instances, were forced out of business.

The Government in its Agricultural Policy Framework has reaffirmed its commitment to achieving the following goals:

These objectives guide and direct the trade policies that the country will seek to articulate, promote and defend in the WTO and other negotiating forums.

1.4 Participation in regional and multilateral integration efforts

Jamaica is committed to an open and liberalized trading system and has participated actively in several rounds of multilateral trade negotiation since becoming a Member of GATT in 1963. Jamaica participates in several trade arrangements including CARICOM, Caribbean Basin Initiative, Caribcan (Canada’s preferential trade agreement for the Commonwealth Caribbean), the CARICOM/Venezuela and the CARICOM/Colombia agreements on Trade and Economic Cooperation, and the CARICOM/Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. Jamaica is also engaged in the FTAA process and in the ACP/EU trade negotiations that commenced in September 2002.

Trade liberalization in Jamaica has been driven, firstly, by the World Bank-led structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s and 1990s and, later, by the WTO agreements in 1994. These twin processes are having a strong impact on the agricultural sector in Jamaica, which is faced with a reduction of agro-exports and the risk of being displaced in the domestic market by increased food imports.

Negotiations on agriculture are in progress concurrently in the WTO, the FTAA and the ACP/EU processes. The challenge presented by three parallel and significant negotiations is quite daunting for a small developing country like Jamaica. However, they also present an opportunity to formulate a broad and consistent trade and economic policy for the sector as it interfaces with both traditional and new trading partners at the hemispheric and multilateral levels.

Traditionally, the country has depended on non-reciprocal trade agreements such as the ACP/EU Lomé Conventions and the Caribbean Basin Initiative to provide preferential arrangements for its agricultural exports. As the global and hemispheric liberalization processes gather momentum, these traditional arrangements are likely to be transformed into reciprocal free trade agreements provided for in Article XXIV of GATT. This process could result in the reduction of preferential margins in traditional export markets as well as further opening of the domestic market to imports from industrialized countries such as the EU, US and Canada. This will pose a formidable challenge for a small country with a relatively weak and uncompetitive agricultural sector. At the same time, Jamaica must continue to position itself to benefit from the expected increases in trade and investment flows that are likely to result from these new forms of trade arrangements.

2 Experience with implementing the WTO agreements

2.1 Market access


During the UR, Jamaica opted to bind all its agricultural tariffs at a ceiling of 100 percent. Other duties and charges were bound at 15 percent except for a list of 56 products for which rates were bound at 80 percent, while three sugar products were bound at 200 percent.

The applied tariff in Jamaica, which is the CARICOM CET ranges between 0 and 40 percent. The simple average applied MFN tariff on agricultural goods (HS Chapters 1-24) was about 20.2 percent in 1997.

Import licensing

There is an automatic licensing procedure for milk products.

Tariff rate quotas

Jamaica does not utilize tariff rate quotas.

Legislation regarding trade remedies

Jamaica is not able to use the special agricultural safeguard mechanism provided by the AoA.

The ceiling bindings on agricultural products are the only area of policy flexibility available to Jamaica, and it has been used rarely since the inception of the WTO. It is also the only effective instrument that can be used to defend domestic industry against dumped or subsidized imports. The classic trade remedy instruments of the WTO are not user-friendly for small developing countries, but Jamaica has made the arrangements to use them if it becomes necessary.

Jamaica enacted the Safeguard Act in 2001. Under this Act, the Government is able to pursue safeguard action to protect domestic industries against import surges which threaten or cause injury to those industries. This Act complies with the WTO general safeguard agreement. Prior to this, the Government updated the national anti-dumping legislation to make it consistent with the WTO. This legislation provides for the establishment of an Anti-dumping and Subsidies Commission and the imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties against dumped or subsidized goods.

Customs valuation

Preparations to implement the WTO customs valuation agreement in Jamaica have been in progress for some time. The new customs valuation system is expected to commence operation soon. This system will provide for the valuation of goods on the basis of the transaction or invoice value rather than the current system, which uses a reference price or a derived price which tends to be higher than the invoice value. It is expected that the country will incur revenue losses on a number of agricultural commodities, and therefore, the Government has agreed to increase the duty on chicken parts, except necks and backs, and a range of vegetables to compensate for the anticipated revenue shortfall. These increases fall within Jamaica’s bound tariffs in the WTO.

2.2 Domestic support

A number of agricultural support services are provided by the Government in order to enhance competitiveness and develop the agricultural sector generally. These services include research and extension, the development of technology, human resource and marketing, plant quarantine/produce inspection and veterinary services.

The Government also provides income tax exemption for up to ten years for farmers with approved farmer status. Agricultural production inputs are exempted from general consumption tax payments, and farmers are eligible for a 20 percent duty concession on the importation of farm vehicles.

These policies fall mainly within the WTO Green Box measures that are exempt from reduction commitments. Government expenditure on roads, bridges and water would also fall under Green Box support measures. The Government’s use of Green Box measures up to now has been sparing, compared with its use by the industrialized countries, and this difference is likely to continue because of the limited resources available to Jamaica. However, increased expenditure in this area will become necessary to assist the adjustment process in the sector if it is to increase production and improve its efficiency and competitiveness in the future.

Jamaica did not indicate in its WTO schedule of concessions any trade-distorting domestic support measures. This implies that all measures fall within the Green Box or at least do not exceed the de minimis requirement of 10 percent for developing countries for product-related AMS support and 10 percent for nonproduct- related AMS support. The flexibility to use trade distorting domestic support measures, which are currently used by many other countries, should be available to Jamaica and not constrained by the current de minimis limit. The emphasis here is on measures to support and assist the development process.

2.3 Export subsidies

Jamaica did not notify the WTO of the use of export subsidies in its schedule of commitments. This implies a binding of export subsidies at zero.

2.4 Marrakesh Ministerial Decision

Jamaica is a net food-importing developing country and supports the Marrakesh Decision on NFIDCs as well as efforts to operationalize that decision. It might be necessary for both Government Agencies and NGOs to access any kind of financial assistance that might be provided for NFIDCs to offset increases in the price of basic food imports. In Jamaica, basic food imports are traded not by Government Agencies but by the private sector and NGOs. Jamaica would also have difficulties if this kind of funding were linked to IMF-type conditionalities.

2.5 State trading enterprises

To the extent that state trading enterprises and other private companies distort markets, they need to be regulated by the international trading system. The issue of market dominance and distortions displayed by some multinationals could be addressed under rules governing competition policies. Jamaica does not operate any state trading enterprises of significance, except for the trade in raw sugar and a portion of its small pimento production. These operations result in little or no market distortions. In any event, small developing countries might need to maintain state trading enterprises to attain some level of efficiency in their trading operations and to compete with much larger global private and state companies.

2.6 Sanitary and phytosanitary measures

Jamaica has a Notification Point for matters related to SPS measures, as is required by the WTO. In the area of SPS measures, Jamaica has encountered difficulties with the following:

With respect to imports, Jamaica has stepped up the enforcement of national food safety laws in relation to meat products and poultry.

Jamaica recognizes the importance of the WTO SPS agreement for both the export and import of agricultural and fish products. SPS measures are important for the protection of human, animal, or plant life or health, but countries can also use these unfairly as barriers to trade. Developing countries such as Jamaica are sometimes at a disadvantage in the use and application of these measures as their scientific and institutional capabilities are considerably less developed than those that exist in the industrialized countries.

Like many developing countries, Jamaica’s SPS standards, laws and institutions need to be modernized and strengthened in order to comply with the WTO SPS Agreement. The Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has already instituted several steps which are part of a wider strategy to improve export regulation and SPS systems. These initiatives include: legislation, such as the Aquaculture, Inland and Marine Products and By-Products Inspection, Licensing and Export Act, 1999 and the Meat, Meat Products and Meat By-Products (Inspection and Export) Act 1998; the establishment of export “one stop” pre-clearance centres at Norman Manley International and Sangster International Airports, respectively; the establishment of a residue testing laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture; as well as participation in international agencies such as the Codex Alimentarius, the International Office for Epizootics, and the International Convention for Phytosanitary Protection. Government is also seeking to strengthen the country’s systems through the development of an umbrella organization - the Jamaica Animal And Plant Health Inspection System - to administer the country’s SPS Programme.

Jamaica will need technical assistance from the international community to continue the implementation of measures aimed at upgrading generally its SPS systems. Assistance is required in the areas of upgrading legislation; development of human resources; provision of equipment for laboratories; and institutional reorganization and strengthening.

It is recognized that, in future, countries might reduce their use of the traditional protectionist measures such as tariffs and various non-tariff measures, and that more emphasis could be placed on the use of SPS measures as a barrier to trade. This area of agricultural trade policy therefore needs to be monitored closely by Member countries in the various standard-setting bodies and in WTO to ensure that those countries that are more advanced in their scientific and technological capabilities do not use these assets as a basis for frustrating the efforts of less developed countries to expand their trade.

2.7 Dispute settlement system

As a result of Jamaica’s experience as a third party to the EU-US et al. dispute regarding bananas, Jamaica was able to observe closely how the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding operated. As a consequence, Jamaica has identified certain weaknesses in the system from the perspective of a developing country.

Jamaica agrees that the dispute settlement mechanism is essential to the effective functioning of the multilateral trading system. The specific weaknesses identified in the system concern:

It is evident that, apart from the provision of legal assistance by the WTO secretariat, developing countries will need to develop expertise in international trade law to ensure that their interests can be adequately defended by their own lawyers. Therefore, technical assistance from the WTO should be committed to the provision of such training for those developing countries that require this form of assistance.

3 Review of food and agricultural trade

3.1 Macroeconomic context

The performance of the agricultural sector in Jamaica has been influenced over the past decade by a number of macroeconomic variables as well as the extensive trade liberalization programmes that have been implemented in the sector and in the wider economy. The main macroeconomic factors influencing specifically the production and trade environment include foreign exchange liberalization, interest rate movements, inflation developments and the average loan rate. Table 1 gives an indication of how these factors operated over the period.

Between 1990 and 2000, the foreign exchange rate for the Jamaican dollar to the US dollar moved from 7.18 to 43.32, an increase of about 600 percent. While this movement increased Jamaican dollar earnings for exports of agricultural products, the cost of inputs such as fertilizer and raw materials for agroprocessing also increased and in turn pushed up production costs.

Table 1. Movement in key factors influencing trade


Average annual $J/US$ exchange rate

Average deposit interest rate

Inflation rate

Average loan rate
























































Source: Bank of Jamaica, Statistical Digest.

The average loan rate is a significant factor influencing investment in the sector. During the period under consideration, the rate moved from 34.5 percent to a peak of 62.34 percent in 1994 and was gradually reduced to 32.9 percent in 2000. This is still considered a high rate for many farmers and acts as a disincentive to investment. The inflation rate was reduced from 40.2 percent in 1991 to more manageable levels in 1999 and 2000 of 6.8 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. While the lower level of inflation augured well for the growth of the economy, the consistently high interest rate has contributed to a general contraction in the economy. In an effort to alleviate the situation regarding high loan rates, the Government established a special interest rate regime for loans administered by development financial institutions such as the Ex-Im Bank, National Development Bank and the Agricultural Credit Bank. This allowed exporters and specific subsectors of the productive sector to access loans at between 11 and 13 percent.

Another significant factor which inhibits growth and development of the wider economy is the cost of servicing the country’s debt. In the budget for the fiscal year 2002/2003, debt servicing will represent about 64 percent of Government’s total expenditure.

3.2 Agricultural and food trade balance

From 1990 to 1998, Jamaica’s agricultural exports grew by about 28 percent, while imports increased by about 134 percent during the same period. During the most recent 1996-2000 period, Jamaica has run a deficit on its agricultural trade (Table 2).

Table 2. Jamaica’s balance of trade on food products (US$ million)






Imports of food products

Consumer goods






Raw materials












Exports of traditional and non-traditional agricultural products






Balance on agricultural trade






Source: Planning Institute of Jamaica.

3.3 Exports

Exports of traditional crops for the period under review continued to account consistently for between 65 percent and 70 percent of total export earnings, and therefore, these crops continue to be important to the sector and the economy in general. Developments in the production and marketing arrangements for these products impact significantly on the country’s trade policies and programmes.

Exports of non-traditional crops over the period 1995-2000 have been relatively stable, although these are expected to expand in future as the country pursues further diversification policies and programmes. There has been significant progress since the earlier period 1991-1995 with an increase in their share from 15 percent of the total to 32 percent (Table 3). However, it could require a long period as well as investment and Government support for this group to replace or compensate for the earnings of the traditional crops.

Table 3. Value of selected agricultural exports, 1991-2000




88 536.6

98 188.8


42 459.4

34 962.4

Citrus (fresh fruit)

3 489.4

4 309.8


4 254.0

4 441.0


2 441.6

1 523.6


18 192.2

27 960.8


159 373.2

171 143.0


27 945.0

79 175.2


187 318.2

250 318.2

Memo item: Share of non-traditional exports in the total (%)



Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Jamaica.


The traditional commodities, namely sugar, bananas, coffee, cocoa and citrus, continue to make the most significant contribution to production, employment, development of agro-industry, exports and, to a lesser extent, domestic food consumption in Jamaica. The sugar industry is the third largest earner of foreign exchange in the Jamaican economy after bauxite and tourism. Sugar cane remains Jamaica’s single most important agricultural crop. The industry is the second largest single employer of labour and employs approximately 41 000 persons during the cropping season and 28 000 persons out of crop. An estimated 200 000 persons derive their livelihood directly or indirectly from this industry. Sugar earns about US$100 million of foreign exchange annually, which is about 50 percent of the total value of the country’s annual agricultural exports. Approximately 40 000 ha of land are under sugar cane cultivation, of which 46 percent are on estate farms and 54 percent located on small and medium-sized independently owned farms.

The Jamaican sugar industry has contracted steadily over the years since sugar production peaked at 523 234 tonnes in 1965. Since 1992, the industry has had an output target of 300 000 tonnes per year but has fallen well below that goal. In 1996, output was 239 192 tonnes, 186 978 tonnes in 1998, and 204 634 tonnes in 1999. Production in 2000 was 216 869 tonnes. Despite these disappointing production figures, however, exports in the post-1995 period were on average 20 percent higher than in the two earlier periods (Table 4).

Table 4. Agricultural exports by commodity, 1985-2000



Percentage increase/decrease between periods




(A) to (B)

(B) to (C)




Sugar (raw equivalent)

Exports (tonnes)

142 973.6

143 139.8

173 393.0



Exports (US$ thousand)

68 275.6

84 892.4

97 259.4



Unit value (US$/tonne)






Cocoa beans

Exports (tonnes)

1 740.8

1 829.8

1 104.2



Exports (US$ thousand)

4 080.8

2 604.4

1 506.6



Unit value (US$/tonne)

2 291.4

1 430.1

1 361.3




Exports (tonnes)

27 311.0

71 060.8

63 248.2



Exports (US$ thousand)

13 482.8

41 593.2

35 685.2



Unit value (US$/tonne)






Fruit and vegetables

Exports (tonnes)

61 241.8

107 497.2

97 314.0



Exports (US$ thousand)

36 990.4

70 789.8

70 812.0



Unit value (US$/tonne)






Coffee (green)

Exports (tonnes)


1 069.0

1 443.6



Exports (US$ thousand)

8 118.8

14 639.2

26 881.0



Unit value (US$/tonne)

9 173.8

13 709.3

18 546.4



Source: FAOSTAT.

The most striking feature of the industry is its low productivity in both farm and factory operations including low gross return per hectare, low labour productivity per capita, low sugar cane yield, and low tonnes of cane per acre. A five-year sugar industry policy document (1999-2004) is currently being implemented to address these problems. The two main problems facing the industry are developments concerning preferential arrangements in the EU market for ACP sugar and the relatively high cost of producing sugar in Jamaica.

About 65 percent of the sugar produced is exported to satisfy quotas in the EU-154 000 tonnes raw sugar and a minimum quota of 11 500 tonnes to the United States. The prices that Jamaica obtains from the export of raw sugar under preferential marketing arrangements are approximately three times that of the world market price. For example, the price of Sugar Protocol sales to the EU are US$631/tonne, for special preferential sugar sales to the EU around US$521/tonne, and for US quota sugar sales, around US$466/tonne. The price of sugar on the world market is about US$198/tonne. Jamaica does not sell sugar to the world market.

There will be increased pressure on the continuation of the EU sugar preferences arising from the EU “Everything But Arms” initiative, which will allow 48 LDCs to export all their goods except arms to the EU on a duty-free basis. Phasing out of import duties on sugar is scheduled for 1 July 2006 to 1 July 2009. The current complaint by Brazil and others in the WTO against EU sugar policy is likely to add to this pressure.

These developments are a clear signal to the industry to reduce its costs of operation/production significantly to survive in the EU market competing against exports from the LDCs where prices could approximate the world market price. Preferences for sugar could be eroded further by continued liberalization of agriculture trade in the WTO, the expected enlargement of the EU, as well as by the conclusion of free trade agreements between the EU and several Latin American and other countries.


The banana industry makes a very important contribution to the Jamaican economy. It is second only to sugar as an agricultural export and is a vital component of export earnings and GDP. This industry is a source of jobs for many Jamaicans and accounts for 12 percent of agricultural employment. An 1995 estimate suggests that the industry provides employment for about 45 000 persons. The majority of those employed are engaged in the production process, but employment is also provided for persons in boxing plants, on the wharves and in transportation.

Taking the five-year averages in Table 4, the export of bananas appears to have flattened out in the most recent five-year period. However, since 1997, the volume of banana exported has shown a declining trend, and the volume exported declined from 88 917 tonnes in 1996 to 52 208 tonnes in 1999 and to 41 000 tonnes in 2000. These export volumes represent the lowest output level for the 1990s. Consequently, Jamaica’s share of the United Kingdom market fell to 10.2 percent in 1999, down from 11.5 percent in 1998. The poor performance of the industry was attributed to the following factors:


Cocoa is a small-farm family crop, with the majority of farms being under 2 ha. Larger farms (greater than 8 ha) are estimated to be only 1 percent of all farms but account for 20 percent of total production. Production and exports have been declining in recent years. This has been attributed to the unfavourable weather conditions in the latter years coupled with poorly maintained fields and farmers’ dissatisfaction with prices. Also, a lack of funds has prevented the Cocoa Board from providing any major assistance to farmers to enable them to rehabilitate their fields.


The Jamaican citrus industry in 1999 employed approximately 18 500 persons (industry-wide and inclusive of agro-processing enterprises) with 6 012 employed by citrus farmers island-wide. The majority of growers have small to mediumsized farms, and among the varieties cultivated are orange, grapefruit, ortanique and ugli. The total value of the citrus industry to the Jamaican economy is estimated at $J2 849 282 760.00. The value of exports by variety in 1995-1999 is shown in Table 5. Oranges constitute about 50 percent of total citrus exports, and the main markets are United Kingdom, Barbados, United States and Canada.

However, the domestic market continues to be the industry’s main economic base and accounted for 87 percent of national production in 1998/99.

Table 5. Citrus fresh fruit exports by variety and value, 1995-1999







Sweet orange

1 734 836

2 715 547

2 243 606

2 027 380

2 157 975


322 775

915 398

513 997

460 336

458 934


1 233 676

1 333 270

1 147 336

1 147 152

1 487 223


130 232

145 207

115 848

32 570

8 701




1 357


3 171


3 422 133

5 110 075

4 022 144

3 668 137

4 116 004


In the 1980s, deregulation and liberalization of the coffee industry were instituted as part of the general deregulation of the economy. The rapid deregulation of the industry resulted in an expansion in production of Blue Mountain coffee and an increase in the number of producers who attained grower/exporter status and exported coffee in their own right.

During this period, the production of blue mountain coffee increased from 40 000 boxes in 1978 to 430 428 boxes in the 1996/97 crop. However, there was a large reduction in the production of lowland coffee from 322 857 boxes in 1987/88 to 164 404 boxes in 1998/99.

Despite the financial problems of the Asian market, Japan continues to be the major importer of Jamaican coffee. Without disrupting the traditional trade with Japan, North America and the United Kingdom, the Coffee Industry Board will be actively pursuing penetration of new markets. This will involve sustained promotional programmes in the targeted markets for which substantial funding will be required.

3.4 Imports

Jamaica is a net importer of agricultural products. The import statistics for Jamaica demonstrate that for the decade of the 1990s, food imports (US$1.64 billion) accounted for just over half of Jamaica’s total import bill (US$3.23 billion). Traditionally, the main imported products have been cereal and cereal preparations (just over 80 percent), fish and meat (approximately 12 percent), dairy products (just over 3 percent) and vegetables (less than 2 percent). More recently, there has been an increase in imports of fruits and vegetables as a result of the reduction in tariffs and non-tariff measures in Jamaica. The US has been the major supplier to Jamaica of most of the vegetables, meat (including poultry) and processed foods. Several food items are also imported from the EU.

Over the period 1990-1998, total imports of food and beverages increased steadily from US$281.3 million to US$510.9 million. 1991 was the only year in which a decrease in food imports was recorded. The figures for this period also showed a consistent food deficit except for 1992.

Table 6. Agricultural imports by commodity, 1985-2000


Percentage increase/decrease between periods




(A) to (B)

(B) to (C)




Poultry meat

Imports (tonnes)

25 992

27 019

36 126



Imports (US$ thousand)

14 890

17 688

21 848



Unit value







Imports (tonnes)

51 598

76 452

76 610



Imports (US$ thousand)

17 238

24 594

30 557



Unit value






Wheat and flour

Imports (tonnes)

181 651

137 312

147 478



Imports (US$ thousand)

30 952

20 739

29 623



Unit value






Milk equivalent

Imports (tonnes)

133 537

93 742

90 072



Imports (US$ thousand)

25 303

26 758

32 156



Unit value






Source: FAOSTAT.

A breakdown of trends by commodity for selected import commodities intended for final consumption is available from FAOSTAT. In quantity terms, imports of poultry meat increased significantly in the post-1995 period, while imports of wheat and flour increased post-1995 after declining in the 1990-1994 period compared with 1985-1989. Dairy imports have fluctuated considerably from year to year but were generally smaller in the later periods compared with 1985-1989. Dairy imports peaked in 1997, although they were close to that level again in 2000. The industry continues to struggle with competition from subsidized imports of milk products and inefficiencies in domestic marketing and production. Moreover, apart from poultry meat, where the unit value of imports was slightly smaller in 1995-2000 compared with the earlier period, the unit value of all the other commodities increased significantly in the most recent period - milk by 26 percent on average, rice by 25 percent on average and wheat and flour by 40 percent on average. These increases in unit values help to explain the significant increase in expenditure on food imports that took place in the post-1995 period (Table 6).

4 Food security

4.1 Trends in food security indicators

Jamaica’s food security in terms of the availability of adequate food to feed the nation is provided by food imports, domestic production and the proceeds from exports to purchase food imports. Government policy in Jamaica is targeted at all three pillars of food security.

Growing competition on the world market for basic foods produced by agricultural surpluses (often subsidized) in the industrialized world has led to a relatively cheap supply of food globally, particularly since the 1970s. It is arguable that this process has created dependencies and increased the vulnerability of small producers. However, the cost of food to importing nations was reduced, provided that they could generate foreign exchange to support these purchases.

Information on the trend in self-sufficiency ratios for some important imported foods shows that the ratios generally increased in the 1990-1994 period, compared with 1985-1989, but declined again in the 1995-2000 period. However, despite increased imports of poultry meat, domestic production increased more rapidly, allowing an increase in the self-sufficiency ratio for this product in the most recent period (Table 7).

Jamaica’s capacity to pay for its food imports is examined using two indicators. Food imports as a proportion of agricultural exports fell somewhat between 1985-1999 and 1990-1994, but a faster growth of food imports in the most recent period widened the gap between food imports and agricultural exports, and the ratio increased again in the most recent period. The share of food imports in total merchandise export receipts follows the same pattern, with a sharp fall between 1985-1989 and 1990-1994, only to increase again in the most recent period.

Table 7. Evolution of selected food security indicators, 1985-2000




Changes (%)







Total energy intake (kcal per capita per day)

2 576

2 542

2 651




Vegetable products (%)






Animal products (%)






Protein intake (g per capita per day)







Vegetable products (%)






Animal products (%)






Self-sufficiency ratios



Beef (%)






Poultry meat (%)






Meat (%)






Milk (excluding butter) (%)






Food import capacity ratios

Ratio of food imports to agricultural exports (%)






Ratio of food imports to

total merchandise exports (%)






Source: FAOSTAT.

The market-oriented approach to food security contends that Jamaica could maximize its use of scarce resources by purchasing imported food cheaply rather than supporting or protecting uncompetitive food producers if their products can be grown elsewhere and imported more cheaply. The island’s scarce resources could then be better invested in commodities or services, e.g. tourism, where a comparative advantage is identified to maximize foreign exchange earnings. This argument is particularly persuasive when one considers that both urban and rural poor have benefited from cheap imports of powdered milk and poultry meat among other products in Jamaica.

Jamaica has been very committed to this approach to food security as it seeks to contain the cost of living and food prices for both the urban and rural poor. The problem is that these cheap food imports have more to do with unfair advantage and privilege enjoyed by the industrialized countries in the form of their own high levels of subsidies and other forms of protection than with comparative advantage.

Further programmes of liberalization in the global agricultural sector are expected to increase the prices of certain food imports over time, and net food importing developing countries could then be faced with significantly increased food bills. In Jamaica’s case, this would exacerbate the already acute problems of a persistent food deficit and debt burden. In the 2002 Budget, Government announced that approximately 64 percent of its expenditure would be used to service existing debts. This budget has an allocation of about 2 percent for agriculture.

4.2 Poverty and undernutrition

Data on average daily calorie intake per head show that this average dropped in 1990-1994 as compared with 1985-1989, despite the improvement in agricultural production during this period, but increased again in the post-1995 period (Table 7). These data correspond to a recent assessment of food security in Jamaica conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, which concluded that between 1994 and 1996-1998, there had been a significant reduction of persons who can be regarded as food insecure in Jamaica. For 1996-1998, FAO estimated that 10 percent of the population or approximately 250 000 persons were undernourished. In 1974, the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) estimated that 783 000 persons were undernourished.

During the 1986-1998 period, several factors contributed to the reduction of malnutrition in Jamaica, namely, the reduction in inflation, the reduction in poverty levels from 29 percent in 1994 to 15.9 percent in 1998 as well as government programmes and policies aimed at reducing the level of poverty in the country.

On the negative side, the 1999 survey of living conditions indicates that the pattern of inequity in consumption in the society persists. For example, in 1998, the lowest decile consumed 2.6 percent, while the highest decile consumed 29.9 percent of total consumption.

In summary, the issue of poverty alleviation is still a priority. It is believed that the agricultural sector has the potential to create additional employment, particularly in rural communities

Another important aspect of food security is the composition of nutritional intake. According to the CFNI, there has been a major change in Caribbean dietary, nutritional and health patterns over the past three decades as food availability has increased significantly while diets have become laden with saturated fats. On the positive side, there has been a decline in malnutrition. On the negative side, there has been a dramatic increase in lifestyle-related chronic diseases in the Caribbean - heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer, etc. According to a study conducted by the CFNI, these new epidemiological problems are primarily linked to a dietary pattern in which the consumption of food from animals and sugar and salt has been increasing steadily while the consumption of complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers and legumes, is low or declining.

The CFNI report states that to address these contemporary health problems, there is an urgent need to re-examine Caribbean food availability and dietary patterns and to ensure that agricultural policies emphasize and encourage the expansion of domestic fruit, and vegetables production and availability. These health and nutrition arguments support the case for the development of the Jamaica food crop sector.

5 WTO negotiations on agriculture - implications for Jamaica

CARICOM, of which Jamaica is a member, is negotiating as a group based on the fact that CARICOM is not only a customs union (the countries sharing a CET) but is currently in the process of deepening its integration through the establishment of a single market and economy.

CARICOM has submitted eight proposals in the WTO negotiations, which cover the following topics:

Jamaica also supported a proposal submitted by a group of SIDS.

Jamaica’s negotiating position is driven by the following policy objectives:

Jamaica’s negotiating positions are influenced by the over-riding consideration of its small geographical and market size, relatively high production cost, concentration of exports around a few products, high dependence on world trade, participation in a small percentage of world trade and other structural characteristics that render the country highly vulnerable in a fully liberalized market. Jamaica shares these characteristics with its CARICOM colleagues.

Special and differential treatment

Jamaica supports the emphasis on development, which was mandated by the Doha Ministerial Council as an integral part of all elements of the negotiations on agriculture. Jamaica therefore supports the following, particularly for small developing economies (SDEs):

Market access

Domestic support

Export competition


[84] This chapter is based on a longer case study prepared for FAO by Mavis Campbell, Ministry of Agriculture, Jamaica.

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