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By John Emmanuel

September 10, 1998 - Concerns over St. Lucia reaching its Export Banana Target for 1998 has been laid to rest.  Agriculture Minister the Hon. Cassius Ellias told a news conference Tuesday, St. Lucia was well on target in reaching the export quota of 64,000 tones of bananas being shipped to the United Kingdom.

He says despite drought conditions, the island was able to export close to 45,000 tones of bananas as of September 4, 1998 and that 1,200 tones per-week are to be exported over the remaining 17 weeks up until December of 1998.

Improvements, Mr. Ellias says are also expected in the area of prices. He noted that farmers currently enjoy the highest prices ever paid out in the history of the industry, receiving 48 cents for certified premium fruit, 38 cents for non-certified premium and 21cents to non-premium fruit, a structure that will be maintained until December 1998.

Minister Ellias told reporters that "when prices are reviewed at the end of the six-month period ending in December 1998, farmers are expected to receive even higher prices for bananas in January of 1999, if quality and quota levels are maintained".

The Ministry of Agriculture is hopping to have some 2,000 banana farmers from across the country certified, towards the end of 1999.


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