Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries has stated its commitment to safeguarding the citrus industry. This commitment comes with the knowledge that the citrus industry while experiencing challenges of adverse weather conditions and disease remains lucrative, with an estimated total value of approximately $5 billion to $7 billion.
Interim chief executive officer at the National Fisheries Authority, Courtney Cole, said that the citrus sector is essential to Jamaica's economy in terms of employment, export and local consumption. Approximately 96 per cent of total citrus production is utilised locally for the fresh fruit market or in processing, while four per cent is exported.
Cole said that the sector plays a key role in rural development. “It is an integrated industry, from on-farm production to distribution, processing, and packaging of juice and jams,” he noted. “We are duty-bound to do everything possible to safeguard the industry.”
Cole was speaking on behalf of Permanent Secretary, Dermon Spence, at the 21st annual general meeting of the Jamaica Citrus Protection Agency.
The citrus industry, once a central economic mainstay of parishes such as Clarendon, St Mary, St Ann, Manchester, Westmoreland, St James, and St Catherine, has faced a downturn in production over the last several years due to citrus greening and citrus tristeza. Citrus production declined from 4.5 million boxes in 1999 to some 3.3 million boxes in 2009; the year citrus greening was first identified in Jamaica.
Production reached a low of about 1.6 million boxes in 2017, which was nearly half of the 1999 levels. The ministry has invested millions in the revival of the industry through the production and distribution of clean plant material, training of farmers, the planting and cultivation of fruits, among other things.