Monday, February 17, 2003
The Brettons Wood Project has been in touch to highlight a feature length documentary which is currently being shown in selected UK cinemas called Life and Debt .
This film covers some of the economic problems that affect Jamaica and the problems being caused by economic mismanagement, the tough lending requirements of major institutions + international trade rules...
For example the film includes "a segment on the banana industry wherein Jamaica has been granted preferential treatment from the British through the Lome Convention, providing a tax-free import quota for 105,000 tons/fruit per year to England.
Through a case the U.S. brought to the WTO, the U.S. government is demanding the Lome Convention quota removed, (although the U.S. does not grow bananas on its own soil) forcing Jamaica to compete with exporters from Central America + South America. Specifically Chiquita + Dole, which are U.S. companies who produce bananas on a large scale. Central America is characterized by cheaper labor, a different soil type, high rainfall and a climate suited to large-scale banana production and thus more efficient.
Jamaica's entire banana production could be produced by one farm in Central America. Banana's bring in $23 million to Jamaica, comprising 8% of all exports. Yet, in the Windward Islands, bananas account for 50% of total exports. In St. Lucia, St.Vincent, bananas also comprise significant % of total exports, so quota loss will impact the entire Caribbean. At present the European Union has granted $600 million to help Jamaica become more efficient in their banana production so that they may attempt to compete on the "free market" in year 2000. The quota that is being so forcefully contested by US multinationals is under 5% of all global banana production. It is unlikely that the banana industry here could match the price of bananas from Central America. Already the number of small banana growers on the island have shrunk from 45,000 to 3,000."
Sadly, there are similarly depressing segments covering Jamaica's milk + chicken industries...
Posted 7:27 pm by Matt Prescott