The contribution of agriculture to Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 6.8% in 2012, and the sector currently employs 18% of the national workforce. Food exports from the island increased by 22.3%, moving from US$224 million in 2011 to US$274 million in 2012.
As part of its efforts to reduce the national food import bill and satisfy export demand for fine Jamaican produce, the Government has embarked on the following initiatives:
- The identification of several strategic areas of growth in the sector, namely onions, Irish potatoes, yams, honey, hot pepper, ginger, turmeric, pineapple, small ruminants (sheep and goat meat) and aquaculture.
- The earmarking of eight (8) agro parks for development. Under this initiative, the Government will lease lands with the requisite infrastructure to farmers/investors, who will be responsible for working capital and agricultural production.
Jamaica has long developed a worldwide reputation for its outstanding produce, with two of the most prominent being Blue Mountain coffee and fine/flavoured cocoa.
- Jamaican coffee grown in the Blue Mountains is ranked among the world’s most celebrated and is regarded as a premium product. Coffee production stood at 6,687 tonnes in 2012, and is expected to increase in the short term.
- Jamaican cocoa is recognised as one of eight exclusive producers of fine or flavoured cocoa by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), and the country produced 450 tonnes of the produce in the 2012 crop year. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries expects production to double in the 2013/14 crop year.
Banana and sugar have been rebounding from industry challenges, and the Government is currently divesting its assets in the sugar industry as part of its strategy to bring new investments, additional working capital and market diversification.
Registered farmers presently number 153,652, and according to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), the six parishes with the largest land area for farming are Clarendon (44,856 ha.), St. Catherine (37,922 ha.), St. Ann (37,099 ha.), Westmoreland (35,241 ha.), St. Elizabeth (30,022 ha.) and Trelawny (24,803 ha.). With such a wealth of fertile land, Jamaica has yet to reach its full potential in agricultural production. The Government remains committed to the development of traditional sub-sectors such as coffee, cocoa, sugar and banana, but is also seeking to diversify the sector by targeting the aforementioned strategic growth areas.
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