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Fundamental Changes to be Made to St. Lucia Marketing Board

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Contact: John Emmanuel

October 12, 1999 - With the term of the present Board of Directors of the St. Lucia Marketing Board having come to an end, the Ministry of Agriculture has written to directors expressing appreciation for their services and is assessing the institutionís future.

Already a comprehensive report undertaken by financial house KPMG Peat Marwick has reached the desks of key ministry personnel. It examined the financial and managerial situation of the Marketing Board over the last two years and based on its findings, the Ministry is prepared to implement fundamental changes. Permanent Secretary Dr. James Fletcher says government's plan to privatize the institution has not been abandoned.

"That is still the position of the Ministry, the retail operation of the Marketing Board ought to be privatized. I see no reason for the Marketing Board to continue to function as a retail outlet. I think the important role for the Board is to source market intelligence and consolidate produce so that it can be shipped. There are presently farmers who have direct linkages with hotels and supermarkets. However there are those who simply cannot establish those linkages and therefore the Marketing Board has to play that facilitating role. But for it to operate as a retail outlet competing, not very well, with supermarkets, I don't see that as being a profitable operation."

The Permanent Secretary says although a definite decision has not been taken, the decision in favor of privatization hinges on the lack of profitability of the retail operations of the Marketing Board.

The delay in turning things around Dr. Fletcher says, was due to a number of factors, chief among them being the preoccupation of the last board of directors in fire-fighting and plugging many of the holes in the institutions operations.

The European Union has meantime given approval for a project aimed at charting a new vision for the Marketing Board.


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