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PM Anthony speaks on way forward for Banana Industry

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Thursday, June 09, 2005 - As stakeholders involved in the banana industry brought the curtains down Thursday on a two-day strategic review of the industry, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony has been offering some words of advice on the way forward.

Dr. Anthony says despite the many changes taking place in the industry, that are in most cases beyond farmers and other local industry officials control, all was not lost for the banana industry in the Windward Islands. He says a priority is for the various banana companies operating on the island to be honest with farmers and to fully sensitizing them about the challenges that lie ahead.

On the diplomatic front Dr. Anthony says Ambassador His Excellency Edwin Laurent was leading a charge to bring the concerns of small island states before the European Union (EU), the World trade Organization (WTO) and other mega trading blocs. However Dr. Anthony says the battle must first be won on a domestic level.

He says greater collaboration must exist among stakeholders, for the benefit of banana farmers. Government he says is committed to the industry and will continue to support through of the Banana Industry Trust (BIT), the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU) and others, intervention programmes for the industry.

Government’s assistance he says continues in the areas of irrigation and drainage of banana fields. According to Dr. Anthony, “Using funds from the European Union (EU) we have been able to install irrigation facilities at Mabouya, Roseau, Cul De Sac, Troumasse and other areas..” He says, “These facilities will allow us to deal with the age old problem of seasonal peaks and drops in production that prevents us from reaping maximum benefits from the industry.” He says the challenge now was to persuade farmers to make use of the irrigation system to improve their yields.

Government he says will provide additional funds for the purchase of fertilizers and other vital inputs. “This government will make available a further sum of $3 million dollars to the Banana Industry Trust (BIT) for the procurement of fertilizers, which will then, be sold to bona-fide EUREP-GAP certified farmers, with a grace repayment period of six months.” The programme is expected to be instituted by 1st September, 2005.

A long serving non-profit entity the St. Lucia Agriculturalists Association will have responsibility for the distribution of fertilizer to farmers. Farmers will be issued with vouchers by the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit which will be redeemed for fertilizer from the Agriculturalist Association.

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