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Contact: Primus Hutchinson

Wednesday, October 09, 2002 - The St. Lucia Banana Corporation(SLBC) has embarked on some stern measures in an endeavour to assist in the recovery effort following the ravage of Tropical Storm Lili.

The passage of Lili on September 23, 2002, resulted in the banana industry suffering significant damage, with SLBC being the most affected losing 50% of its production capacity. As a result a 10% pay cut in allowances paid to Directors as well as in salaries and wages to management and staff are among some of the measures instituted by the St. Lucia Banana Corporation, aimed at a rehabilitation drive with the hope of putting the industry back on stream within a twelve week cycle.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, General Manager of the St. Lucia Banana Corporation, Michael Joseph stated that the action taken is indicative of SLBC’s empathy and solidarity with local banana farmers. According to Joseph, those measures adopted, are geared towards the rehabilitation of banana farms island wide. The SLBC general manager also indicated that it was a very tough decision to make. The option was the downsizing of staff.

“ And that formed the backdrop against which we have come up with these proposals, we are boldly going out to all bankers, we are now boldly going out to the bankers of our farmers, we are now boldly going out to input suppliers and saying to them we have bit the bullet, please join us in our effort at recovery” Joseph said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the SLBC, Eustace Monrose is lamenting the formation of a new banana company. According to Monrose this initiative will only augment the already troubling debt issue affecting the SLBC, since most farmers who are with other banana companies are former SLBC members owning huge debts to the company.

The SLBC Chairman is appealing to farmers to think intelligently and act responsibly in honouring their debts. However, he is also predicting the emergence of many more problems for the banana industry as a result of the formation of this new company; questioning firstly its incapacity to sustain farmers.

“Take for example you tell farmers you are going to pay them three weeks after they have sold their bananas to that company. Farmers need that money to carry the operating cost, pay workers, their families and so on. That may not be possible; so therefore, from what I am seeing with my close examination of what is happening, I am not sure that this company will really get off the ground, but if it does get off the ground in any way will do more damage than good to the industry” Monrose said.

Among the other measures the SLBC have taken are the pursuance of a 10% reduction in the payroll of banana companies in which SLBC have shares, pursuance of a six month moratorium on loans contracted by the SLBC and pursuance of a six month moratorium on loans contracted by SLBC Farmers.


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