Remarks By Senator Calixte George
I wish on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the farmers of Saint Lucia to thank the European Union for the quick response to our request for assistance for the banana farmers who suffered damage from Tropical Storm Lili.
The quick response no doubt was due to the fact that your representatives ( Messrs Harel and Osterby) were on island on the day of the storm. I must thank them for coming with me on the preliminary assessment tour of the storm affected areas. On this preliminary tour your representatives were able to get first hand knowledge of both the spread, intensity and nature of damage of the banana fields. Of significance in that regard was that most damage was due to snapping rather than toppling which is indicative that farmers were following good nematode control practices.
This is heartening for it shows that farmers are willing to follow recommendations that bring tangible benefits.
We in the Ministry did not wait for the finalization of our request to you for assistance before providing our farmers with some kind of immediate relief. As you are aware we have established an institutional mechanism - the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU) - to assist banana farmers in their efforts at proper banana husbandry. The BERU has been able in the short period of time since Hurricane Lili to disburse $100 per acre to damaged farms for the purpose of chopping back, field sanitation and plant replacement. In the meantime clogged main drains will be attended to so that drainage around farms can be improved.
Your assistance in the form of inputs is most welcomed and I wish to assure you that the BERU under the able management of Mr. Hilary La Force will distribute the materials such as fertilizers etc, in a fair and equitable manner so that all affected Banana farmers will benefit and be satisfied. I must add that nematicide application must be a part of the package or else maximum benefits from fertilizer application will not be achieved.
Now what of the future. I am convinced that we will be able to bring
Back production to its former level if the lands with high yield potential are properly drained and ploughed. The lands in the major valleys of Mabouya and Cul-de-Sac have never been ploughed and properly drained since sugar cane days. Roseau was properly attended to during the Model Farms Development Project and the benefits were there for every one to see. Farmers were producing at 25 – 30 tons per acre as a matter of course. In the case of the Mabouya Valley a different option was taken. This difference in operational strategy is perhaps the reason why we still have tenurial and industrial problems in the Mabouya Valley.
The knowledge and experience gained in operationalizing different approaches to the farming systems in the Roseau and Mabouya Valleys should be revisited for comparative analysis in order to arrive on a clear path for future banana farm production systems. No matter what banana farm production system we agree on, we will require at least four Caterpillar tractors with appropriate ploughing and drainage equipment for improving soil structure and root room. We will also require improved tissue culture planting material to give a boost to early production.
I am appealing to you for assistance in that regard and sincerely hope that you will respond positively. I can quarantee you of excellent results with farms producing 25-35 tons per acre in eighteen months time provided we do not encounter disruptive environmental stresses.
November 5, 2002
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