On behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, I wish to
extend Christmas Greetings to you my fellow Saint Lucians and to your families.
We have come to the end of another year - a time when we can reflect on the
year’s achievement. This reflection is not only for the Ministry, but it is also
a self reflection on our own personal development.
The Almighty has spared our country from any serious disaster – this we must be
thankful for. Some of us may have lost loved ones or may have suffered some form
of loss, however life must go on and we ought to be thankful that we are alive
Every year at this time we extend greetings of joy, good cheer,to our friends
and families, but in reality we should be sharing greetings and love throughout
the year in the true spirit of Christ the King.
My message to you this year is one of hope, perseverance and tolerance. We have
survived this past year and our economy is slowly picking up and we must
continue to persevere to make this country a better place to live. St. Lucia is
not the property of this or any Government; whatever happens in this country is
everybody’s business and so we must take pride in our nation and in our selves.
We must strive to be tolerant with one another – to accept and to respect each
other’s point of view. Too often we become so intolerant that it sometimes leads
Our economy is built on a somewhat skewed tripod – agriculture, manufacturing
and tourism - with tourism now taking a prominent place in the economy.
We should not as we have done in the past put all our eggs in one basket. We
cannot put our eggs in the TOURISM basket only as this industry is much too
fickle as was illustrated with the 9/11 event in the US. Neither can we put all
our eggs in the Banana basket as the WTO ruling on the EU Banana market has
We must, therefore, plan for a diversified and resilient economic future. In
that regard we have over the past year concentrated our efforts on the
development of a LONGTERM Agricultural Development Plan with the following
1. To increase the efficiency and competitiveness of agriculture
2. To promote the adoption of improved/appropriate technological packages
3. To expand and diversify agricultural production, value added agro-processing
and the general market base
4. To enhance the national food security status
5. To generate new opportunities for employment and income generation in rural
6. To conserve the natural resource base
7. To modernise legislative and policy framework for optimal agricultural
production and trade.
Thus the overall VISION is to “Sustain a diversified national agricultural
income base and enhance the integrity of rural livelihood systems: by generating
the capacity for efficiency and the competitive production and marketing of
agricultural goods and services.
If we follow these policy objectives with the appropriate strategies, programmes
and finance, we can be assured of the beginning of a new era of a long term
viable diversified and stable agricultural economy within a ten year period.
The primary reason why we have not achieved this status to date is because we
have not been persistent and consistent in our diversification efforts. As I
have always warned “there is no quick fix when it comes to agriculture”
A few words now about the Banana Industry.
The industry has served as the foundation of our country’s economic development
for four decades and much has been said and written about the banana industry.
All of this is testament to the important role that bananas have played and
continue to play in the socio-economic development of the four Windward Islands.
Much of the development that we take for granted in Saint Lucia had its genesis
in the banana industry - From the extensive network of secondary and community
roads that have almost all evolved from banana feeder roads, to the mushrooming
of communities and public infrastructure in both urban and rural areas. To put
it simply the Banana industry has served as the mother industry on whose
fortunes other industries and services have been nurtured.
But, as will sometimes happen with parent industries, the banana industry is
currently ailing. Having borne the brunt of the burden for supporting our
development for almost forty years, the banana industry is in need of assistance
and support. And as every one of us would do with a sick mother, the Government
of Saint Lucia has invested in the banana industry in order firstly to keep it
alive, and subsequently to return it to a healthy state. What are medicines that
we have given our sick mother. Basically the medicines involve the better use of
well known technologies as well as the introduction of new ones.
Government has invested over $20 Million in European Union funds into a massive
irrigation and drainage program in the major producing areas. Areas which for
years had been without proper drainage have now benefited from much needed
drainage infrastructure. With the introduction of on-farm irrigation we will
flatten out this counter-productive sine curve of production and allow our
farmers to synchronise production with the requirements of the market.
But that is not all. We have continued our drive to modernise the industry by
facilitating the introduction of sturdier and more productive tissue culture
plants on banana farms. Through our production facilities at the Union
Agricultural Station, we have made possible the distribution of tens of
thousands of tissue culture banana plantlets to banana farmers, and soon, we
will reap the benefits of these new plantings. The Banana Emergency Recovery
Unit (BERU) located in Cul-de-Sac has been established and is in direct contact
with interested farmers in agro-ecological zones suitable for banana
All of our actions over the past six years have been geared at changing the
structure of the industry so that it can respond to the rigours and demands of a
harsh, competitive marketplace. Now the market requires that banana farmers
adopt strict EUREPGAP standards in order to be able to continue selling fruit to
the European Union. The Banana Emergency Recovery Unit is taking steps to ensure
that our banana farmers are EUREPGAP certified by early next year.
It is these very progressive, although admittedly very difficult measures, which
have caused WIBDECO to often state publicly that the banana industry in Saint
Lucia is on a firmer foundation and is better placed than that in any of the
other islands to cope with the vagaries of the marketplace.
There have been casualties, and this is what I refer to when I speak of
difficult measures. It is an inescapable fact that not all of our farmers were
capable of making the difficult transition that this WTO-influenced and
supermarket multiple-dominated environment mandated. However, we have put in
place measures such as our Poverty Reduction Fund, BELFUND, Basic Needs Trust
Fund, and the Rural Credit Facility that are all geared towards providing
support and alternative economic avenues for our displaced farmers. All such
efforts have to be initiated when industries are in crisis and are part of the
‘social peace’ formula that is necessary in such circumstances.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Government remains committed to the banana industry,
and we intend to capitalise fully on the goodwill that continues to exist
towards our fruit in UK supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and Marks
and Spencer, to name a few. And I want to reiterate the statement made by the
Prime Minister during his recent address to the Annual Convention of the Saint
Lucia Labour Party “The banana industry has served us well and will continue to
serve us well for some time”. So, during this festive season I want to reassure
all banana farmers that our Government remains committed to the banana industry
and will do all within its power to ensure that the modernisation and
transformation of the industry continue so as to allow you to reap the benefits
of the industry.
In addition the Ministry has began a Visioning exercise aimed at the development
of new banana based value-added industries.
Among other achievements of the Ministry was the opening of two fisheries
complex one at Choiseul and the other at Soufriere. These complexes will assist
the fishermen in better storage of their catch and a more conducive atmosphere
for sale of fish.
There has been tremendous progress made by the Coconut Growers Association in
adding value to the base product – coconut oil. A new range of Massage Oils have
been produced and we hope that St. Lucians will utilize these products
particularly in the Health Spas at the various Hotels.
The Ministry of Agriculture graduated sixty seven (67) farmers who successfully
completed the nine (9) week Agricultural Farmer Certification Programme. This
programme was designed as a Public-Private sector initiative with the main
marketing outlets – JQ Charles, Julian’s Supermarket and the St. Lucia Marketing
Board. This Supermarket Certification Programme was conceptualised to strengthen
the relationship between producers and purchasers, by improving
production/marketing linkages, better defining market requirements and
developing production plans to manage the supply of fresh produce. We wish to
congratulate both J.Q. Charles Ltd and Julian’s Supermarket for their
co-operative efforts with our farmers.
We have also recorded improved linkages between the Agriculture and Tourism
sectors. Hotels are utilizing a higher percentage of local produce in their
menus and farmers are now producing higher quality food crops, fruits,
vegetables for this sophisticated market. The Programme developed for farmers by
the Sandals Group is commendable.
On behalf of my family and myself, I wish all St. Lucians both here and abroad a
Christmas filled with Joy, Peace and Goodwill and a Bright and Prosperous New
Year. To the Permanent Secretary and staff of the Ministry, I extend seasons
greetings; to the Hon Prime Minister and my colleague Ministers,
Parliamentarians, President and members of the Senate; Opposition members and
their families a Christmas filled with Joy, Peace and Goodwill.
Let the spirit of joy, peace, love and goodwill dwell in your hearts, in your
homes and your offices – so that we can persevere in our efforts at becoming
hopeful, disciplined and tolerant people and a blessed nation.
May God Bless you all.