Jamaica’s agricultural industries are beginning to crumble
due to the lasting impact of its previous agreements with the International
Monetary Fund. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Michael Manley was elected in 1972,
with the goal to reduce foreign dependency and improve the standard of living
in the country; however, unfortunately Manley ended up creating an oil crisis
that increased the price of imported goods and decreased the price of Jamaica’s
exported goods, contributing to Jamaica’s accumulated debt (GlobalBlog). This
debt led Michael Manley to inquire financial aid from the International
Monetary Fund, in which the IMF offered several loan agreements to local
Jamaican farmers to produce crops, however farmers were not able to sell their
crops for enough money to make a profit due to the decline in the price of
Jamaican exports. In the film Life and
Debt, Stephanie Black interviews Prime Minister Michael Manley as he
describes his meeting with the International Monetary Fund: “What you really
need, is to sit down with them and say, ‘Look, can I work out a five-year
program? And in the meantime I’m strapped for some cash so you can help me
upfront get out of the cash bind and then put in the context of a long term
development plan.’ And they say, ‘No, long-term development is your problem. We
are here only to see who’d you owe the money to, why you’re in a bind, and we
lend you some money in a very short timeframe at full interest rate to get you
out of the bind.’ And they then impose upon you tremendous restrictions in what
you can spend. And you say to them, ‘But, if I do it that way, when I finish
repaying you, I’m going to be in the bind all over.’ Because they can’t solve
my problem, they said, ‘Not our problem’.” Director Stephanie Black interviews
several individuals from Jamaica’s milk industry, who state that their local
dairy industries went bankrupt due to the import of a cheaper version, powdered
milk, from the United States, which left them underpriced (Black, Life and Debt). Another example of
agricultural industry failure is Jamaica’s chicken plants, which were undercut
by the United States, as they were exporting cheap, low quality chicken
products to Jamaican chicken markets (Black, Life and Debt). The last example of agricultural industry failure
is Jamaica’s sugar and banana plantation, which, according to Tony Weis, “dominate
the fertile coastal plains – are highly inef?cient, and have been kept a?oat by
endangered preferential markets. Small farmers account for most domestic
production and some exports, while having been historically con?ned to small,
steep plots in the rugged interior, and the burden of their colonial
inheritance has been intensi?ed by withering state support and a wave of
imported food. Jamaica’s agricultural crisis is re?ected in a soaring
agro-trade de?cit; from a near balance in the early 1990s, agro-exports now
equal only 60 per cent of agro-imports” (462).