KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Minister Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr has indicated that the coffee industry is one of the areas high on the Ministry’s agenda for revamping and boosting. Coffee is revered as one of Jamaica’s most traded commodities with the Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) Coffee hailed as the flagship bean.
The Jamaica coffee industry currently has over 4,000 farmers with up 70 per cent of the JBM coffee produced being exported to Japan and 20 per cent to the United States. However, the industry over the years has faced significant challenges affecting productivity resulting in a downturn of output moving from a high of 530,000 boxes in 2004 to 224,000 boxes in the 2021/2022 crop year.
Speaking at the virtual Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Day event, organised by the Consulates General of Jamaica and Japan in New York on January 21, Charles Jr stated that “Coffee is one of our iconic agricultural products and as we look towards the future, the Ministry is committed to assessing the industry through new lenses; that will ensure that we not only continue to maintain the prominence of our JBM coffee but build on the legacy established and increase our production and exports.”
Among the reasons cited by the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister for the significant decline in coffee output is the deteriorating soil quality due to erosion, pests and diseases, unpredictable climatic factors, low plant density, an aging coffee farming population and also low productivity levels due to inadequate resources and inputs.
He added that remedying the situation will require the Ministry taking a holistic approach to revamp and support the processes from establishing and maintaining the coffee fields to securing export markets.
“This will include implementing strategies that will assist farmers in reducing the vulnerability of their crops to climate change occurrences, supporting the refurbishment and upgrading of coffee processing facilities, assessing what technology can be implemented to improve productivity, exploring the development of more value-added products that can be created from our coffee and protecting the brand from copyright piracy,” declared Charles Jr.
Other strategies will include increasing access to market opportunities, improving access to financing and resources as well as engaging youth to consider a future in coffee production to ensure its sustainability.
The Minister made mention of the Revitalization Plan for Coffee through the Crop Restoration and Establishment Programme developed by the Jamaica Agricultural Regulatory Authority (RADA), which is expected to include the replacement of the coffee tree population over the next 10 years commencing with the production of 1.5 million coffee seedlings and stimulating the generation of $3.5 billion in additional income to coffee farmers over the next six years.