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Government and Winfresh Clash Over Bananas

Image: Preparing bananas for export

THE Government of Saint Lucia has met with stakeholders to address issues concerning the banana sector.

This past Thursday, December 20, the Prime Minister, along with The Minister for Agriculture and his team, met with representatives of National Fair trade Organization, Banana Productivity Improvement Project and Winfresh, to discuss the dilemma surrounding the banana Industry export market.

Prior to Tropical Storm Kirk, Winfresh was selling 15,000 boxes of bananas per week to the UK, but projection for 2019 falls to 6,000 per week.

Minister for Agriculture Ezechiel Joseph is opposed to the aforementioned market cut.

He explained, “Moving forward, we are seeing that the production will be very high in the first half of next year and the type of figures Winfresh is talking about cannot be accommodated, so they have to go out there and get the markets.

“So, today the meeting was really to discuss that issue and I am happy they have understood our position as a government and they will continue to collaborate with the NFTO to satisfy the marketing opportunities that we believe can be explored.”

Prime Minister Chastanet said he is content with the outcome of the meeting.

Clip: Prime Mister of Saint Lucia Honourable Allen Michael Chastanet

According to him, “We’ve had meetings with Winfresh with regard to the statements they made.

“We don’t share their sentiments and I am very happy to see that whatever misunderstanding was in place and what they were intended to try do — which was not really to limit the industry, but certainly they were bringing up a problem in the market — we are satisfied that we have a strategy to resolve that.”

The Prime Minister says he is currently exploring opportunities in France and other countries which will consequently boost the banana export market.

Meanwhile the PM is also calling on young farmers to find creative and innovative ways to exploit the entire banana plant, rather than just the fruit.

He said, “I’m encouraging my young people to start looking at what by-products we can use with bananas — both with bananas itself and also the leaves and stems of the banana tree.

“We need to earn money on every component of a banana tree, not just the banana in order to be competitive but I know we have the capacity and the innovation to do that in Saint Lucia, soI want to reassure the banana farmers and reassure the public of Saint Lucia that is government stands firm behind the sector.”

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