Letters & Opinion

The Bottom Line — Look Who’s Going Bananas Over Green Figs!

By Earl Bousquet

Ever wondered why Saint Lucia (like the rest of the Caribbean) has been unable to lower its Food Import Bill, why Import Substitution by Growing What We Eat and Eating What We Grow, or why Food Security continues to be a very elusive goal?

It’s simply (and gravely) because everywhere there are those politicians and activists who’ll go out-of-the-way to do or say anything they feel will bring them closer to political power.

Case at hand: Here we have the Taiwanese entering a five-year agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture to promote Food Security here through the Seven Crops Project that identified fruits and vegetables for special treatment and which actually started under the previous (UWP) administration.

You’d think the UWP, therefore, as a party, will continue to support the project’s continuation –after three years under its watch — but if did, you’d most likely be very wrong.

Take a look at how the UWP, in opposition, has been responding to Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre’s recent appeal (in Kweyol) for Saint Lucians to do more to use more bananas in our daily diet and expand its use to all the wider product possibilities that have been identified for decades.

But instead of supporting the call for further diversification of the banana industry to make the fruit more palatable and widen its range of industrial banana by-products, the UWP’s propaganda arm launches an international campaign to ‘pappyshow’ the PM by suggesting he’s Going Bananas over bananas.

Yes, this is what’s being propagated in the name of those who promised to do better for banana farmers…

For over four decades our banana farmers have been eating ‘green figs’ to make ends meet, especially since the UK and European market was hijacked by American companies in Central America with Washington’s blessings.

But just like no one has encouraged us not to just continue eating the fruit and throw-away the skin, no government — since Independence – similarly, despite being warned before Britain the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed in 1973-74, no Saint Lucian government has seen it fit to openly dissuade banana farmers from depending only on exports to the protected UK market.

Indeed, short of the likes of Baron Foods and Viking Traders using bananas to produce and market top-quality banana ketchup at home and abroad, or the failed efforts to invest Windward Islands banana money in non-banana business here, it’s been more talking-the-talk than walking the required walk.

We’ve always known that ‘two-bananas-per-day’ is a staple diet for Olympic and sporting athletes, but 43 years after Independence we still haven’t seen any government create a guaranteed, permanent and must-pay local market for banana farmers by ensuring very student (at all levels from nursery to tertiary) can eat at least one or two bananas at school, every weekday.

The same idea can be sold to other CARICOM nations, starting with the OECS – all of which are still producing bananas; and The UWI can make the new banana business one of the new income-earning strategies its current Vice Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles, has been promoting to help the university survive on lower payments from governments by investing in fruitful ideas like this, that don’t require one to be a banana scientist to understand – and support.

Between the legacy of WINBAN and WIBDECO, plus the accumulated findings from decades of ongoing research into local bananas by Taiwanese scientists, plus all that’s already available at out fingertips on the ‘Net and buried in reports only waiting to be unearthed, there’s enough for this administration to really start taking early steps to virtually turn bananas around positively, without Going Bananas in the traditional literal sense of the term.

But not if we’re to depend on those speaking for the UWP today, who’ve also gone as much overboard as they could to show PM Pierre’s insistence that we ‘Follow the Science’ as akin to the advice of a Jerry Lewis-type ‘Nutty Professor’ or an Eddie Murphy ‘Naughty Professor’, or any of the two variants of ‘Dr Dolittle’.

Same like when PM Pierre, as Opposition Leader, dared mention the forced frugality of those Saint Lucians who have learned to ‘make a meal with ten EC dollars…’ — only to be made to appear that he was simply ‘Mad’.

Saint Lucians in the UK and Europe, USA and Canada, across the Diaspora, one month before the island observes its 43rd Independence Anniversary, are being invited to laugh about and share words and images insulting to their collective intelligence and sure to sell their homeland in a negative light among those who don’t understand why any citizen who loves his or her homeland would get thrills from making it look and sound that bad.

Yes, this is where we’re at today, where, whether we like it or not, there are those who still treat people’s lives as ‘a joke’ and still believe that ‘The People’ is an unintelligent unit that always has to be thought-and-planned for because their brains are less able to understand simple things like the importance of continuing to trust science (like they’ve always done) and to continue being proud of eating ‘green figs and saltfish’ as a National Dish.

Fact is, there’ll always be those who’ll prefer to sell poison and preach suicide if that’s what it’ll take to bring them closer to political power.

The Anti-vax conspiracy theorists are having a field day over the fact that they’ve brought vaccination levels to a near halt at a time when most needed, encouraging The Unvaccinated to not take steps that can actually save or lengthen their lives.

They’ll spit in your face, call you an ‘ass’, preach to you without listening, tell you the most outrageous tales about vaccination and even preach against eating or appreciating bananas, not because they believe themselves, but because they believe that will eventually bring them closer to regaining power – and That’s The Bottom Line!

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