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Local Bananas Take Center Stage

Banana Expo 2022
Banana Expo 2022

A conscious shift in behaviour and attitude towards the use of locally grown crops was promoted yesterday at a banana exhibition in Constitution Park.

The event, which was held under the theme ‘Fig La Se Sa Nou Tout: The Culinary Experience’, showcased a variety of tasty dishes that could be made out of bananas including cakes, jams, ice cream, pies and salads. Banana wines were also on display as well as a number of handicraft items.

“This activity was on the front burner but was shelved due to COVID. It was fast forwarded a few months ago. The Anglican Church under the coordination of Mr. David Jordan did a fantastic job by hosting the Banana Festival; the Ministry of Agriculture decided to take it to the next level, the culinary level,” Philip Sidney, an official in the Ministry of Agriculture, explained at a ceremony, at the Castries Town Hall to mark the exhibition’s commencement.

“The Ministry’s tagline ‘Eat Fresh, Saint Lucia’s Best’ means to consume more of what is produced. Our food and nutrition security is key to our survival in this country. We will see the launch of a banana recipe book with (contributions) by local chefs,” Sidney added.

The banana recipe book, according to the book’s creator Kendra Payne, features chefs and mixologists from some of Saint Lucia’s finest restaurants. It is jam-packed with recipes (60 to be precise) and includes several appetizers, main courses and desserts.

“Collaborating with these establishments allowed us to provide (consumers) with inspiring dishes using everyday ingredients that can be easily executed right in your own kitchen. For the creation of this book, we worked with nearly 20 restaurants and hotels from around the island,” Payne said.

“In the marketing unit we strive to promote the consumption of local products and produce to our domestic markets. There has been a recent push on behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia to stimulate the production, marketing and most importantly consumption of our local bananas all in an effort to support Saint Lucia’s farmers. The banana recipe book is the newest of three books which have been published through the marketing unit of the Ministry of Agriculture,” she said, adding that cassava and mango recipe books were previously created to tantalize the public with interesting culinary techniques.

Barrymore Felicien, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, who spoke at the event, urged individuals to support the industry, noting that Agriculture is everyone’s business.

“In 2020 globally we consumed approximately 119.8 million tons of bananas and this figure has grown annually. The banana is among the top five fruits recommended for its health benefits and nutritional value. The fruit, leaves, and tree stem all have multipurpose uses and from this one plant there are many derivatives,” Felicien said.

“Over the past two years we have been forced – due to COVID-19 and now because of the supply chain challenges and its corresponding impact on rising prices and product unavailability, to look nationally for solutions to food and nutrition security. This event seeks to promote a conscious shift. The Ministry of Agriculture therefore welcomes everyone in the interest of self-sustainability and boosting local production to ‘Fig La Se Sa Nou Tout’,” he added.

Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere stated that although the industry has suffered tremendously, banana farmers remain committed. He observed that bananas had been the primary export crop for Saint Lucia for more than 50 years with extensive influence on the economic and social advancement of Saint Lucia.

“The industry has been badly affected by (Hurricane) Thomas, Tropical Storm Kirk and more recently Hurricane Elsa, to name a few. These events have tested the resilience of the industry, but the farmers have remained resolute in remaining with bananas as the preferred crop option,” he said.

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