Prime Minister's Letter to Chamber of Commerce on Sale of Bananas to Libia
October 09, 2001
Mr. Linford Fevriere
St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Vide Bouteille
Dear Mr. Fevriere,
At the recently held meeting between representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and the Government, it was agreed that the Government should issue a statement to clarify its position on the question of the sale of bananas to Libya.
You will, recall that the issue surfaced after a statement by George Odlum, Political Leader of "the Alliance", to the effect that Libya was prepared to purchase all the bananas produced by Saint Lucia and other Windward Islands. The alleged offer by Libya was also the subject of articles in the British Press.
To date, none of the Prime Ministers who visited Libya has advised me of the alleged offer by Libya.
In any event, I wish to state categorically that the Government of Saint Lucia will not encourage or sanction the sale of bananas produced by Saint Lucian farmers to Libya.
The sale of bananas to Libya would invite major repercussions. Already, Mr. Bernard Cornibert, Chief Executive Officer of WIBDECO, has reported that the announcement has created unease among two of the largest supermarkets in the United Kingdom which purchase bananas from the Windward Islands.
Moreover, a decision to sell bananas, to Libya could well lead to a cessation or reduction in the financial support which Saint Lucia and other Windward Islands receive from the European Union, Continued European aid is premised on the export of bananas to the European Union.
Of greater concern however, would be the future viability of the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company (WIBDECO). As Mr. Cornibert has noted, the proposal would seriously damage WIBDECO and the investment it has made in the Windward Islands. WIBDECO would not be in a position to sell bananas in quantities that would ensure its financial viability and future survival.
The problem facing St. Lucia's banana industry at present is not one brought on by a collapsing market or insufficient demand, but rather by low production levels. This is why the Government has, in the past few months, injected $2.5 million directly into the industry to make much needed inputs available to farmers, and intends to make available at least another $1 million within the coming months to broaden the input credit scheme. In recognition of the importance of tackling the bottlenecks in supply, the Government commissioned a Task Force to recommend a Strategy to improve productivity in the banana industry, and, consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will shortly activate an Emergency Rehabilitation Unit to assist banana farmers with increasing their production to satisfy the needs for the United Kingdom market. Additionally, our focus on increasing production and productivity has prompted us to allocate almost $20 million in European Union funds for the establishment of irrigation and drainage systems on suitable farm holdings.
In the circumstances, I wish to reassure the private sector and, indeed, all citizens, that the Government of St. Lucia has no intention of entering into any trading relations, which would compromise our standing with other Governments or Donors of Development Assistance. In these times, it would be contrary to our national interests to perpetuate any such ambiguity in our foreign policy.
I thank you for your concern, and for expressing the same in such a forthright manner.
As this is a matter of national interest, this letter is being circulated to the media.
KENNY D ANTHONY
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