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...
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