Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

Livestock, Fishing, and Forestry

Livestock were healthy, diversified, and relatively numerous in the late 1980s. Self-sufficiency was close to 100 percent for pork, 80 percent for beef, and 60 percent for poultry. Agro-21's Master Plan of 1983 called for beef self-sufficiency to be reached nationwide, a goal generally perceived as feasible. Nevertheless, livestock production declined in the mid-1980s, largely as a result of increased feed costs brought on by numerous devaluations of the Jamaican dollar. Virtually all of the poultry produced were chickens, of which there were nearly 6 million on the island. Most chicken farms were small, but a few large producers were influential. Poultry production was dependent on price changes relative to the price of other meats. An increase in the price of chicken in the late 1980s forecast lowered output. Besides chicken, the most common farm animals in Jamaica were goats, totalling more than 295,000, raised for both their milk and meat. Pigs were common on small farms. Swine disease rates were low compared with other Caribbean islands.

Two large dairy farms, Alcan (the bauxite company) and Serge Island, produced 80 percent of domestic milk, although 60 percent of dairy cattle were owned by small farmers. During 1984, two formerly government-owned dairies, Cornwall and Montepelier, were closed as part of the government's divestment policies; the closings further hindered output. As a result of climate and resources, Jamaicans also consumed a large quantity of imported powdered milk. In 1985 the country remained dependent on imported dairy products to meet 84 percent of local demand.

Other livestock included mules, donkeys, and horses, all of which were used primarily for transport. The agricultural census also reported nearly 7,000 sheep and almost 24,000 rabbits. An increasingly popular activity was bee farming for the commercial production of honey.

One of the most important obstacles that faced the government in the 1980s was the high price of imported feeds. To overcome this problem, agricultural policies stressed import substitution, such as increased corn production and experimentation with nontraditional feeds, including sugarcane tops, fish waste, and other agricultural by-products.

Fish was consumed in large quantities in Jamaica, exceeding domestic production. Dried saltfish, historically imported from Canada in exchange for Jamaican rum, still entered the country, but supply was irregular by the late 1980s. The island also imported more than 50,000 kilos of shrimp, codfish, sardines, mackerel, and herring in 1985. Fish production dropped markedly from 18,500 tons in 1980 to 6,000 tons in 1984 as a result of the high cost of equipment, but production rebounded in 1985, reaching 9,550 tons. From 1983 to 1985, pond area grew by 55 percent in an attempt to increase fresh water production for local markets and shrimp production for the export market. Improved marketing, which would require a switch of preference in consumer taste from salt water fish to fresh water fish, remained an obstacle to the success of inland fish farming. Fish ponds were one of several priority subsectors of the Agro-21 plan.

Natural forests, defined as land with at least 20 percent tree cover, represented 24 percent of total land. Government forestry preserves were large. Policies sought self-sufficiency in general purpose timber, with a target 1,700 hectares of forest and producing 40,000 cubic meters of sawlogs a year. In the late 1980s, however, self-sufficiency was still far away. The long-term development of mostly hardwoods, pines, and other species was planned to support the furniture, craft, and construction industries. Small sawmills were common but generally undersupplied.

Data as of November 1987