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Strategic Review of Local Banana Industry Underway

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - Stakeholders involved in the banana industry have started a two-day conference for the Strategic Review of the Saint Lucia Banana Industry. This latest effort is a follow up to a high level regional meeting held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines at which time industry officials reaffirmed the region’s position to adopt a no-exit strategy from the banana industry. The event, organized by the Banana Industry Trust (BIT) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, seeks to reposition the industry to meet emerging global challenges.

Executive Officer of the BIT Bertram Clarke says this review is necessary in light of several factors, like the rising cost of inputs, implementation of the EUREPGAP compliance rules, a decline in farmer earnings, the constant battle with leaf-spot disease, reduced UK market share and sky high fuel price increases. “I do not expect that the solution to all these issues will be addressed during the conference. However I expect that positive thinking will be at the forefront of the minds of all stakeholders present during the two days and that the issues will be approached in such a way that we will find common ground as to how we can move forward collectively with the industry,” says Clarke.

The banana industry remains a significant economic sector contributing over 53 million dollars annually to the local economy. Industry officials say now is not the time to give up in despair. Agriculture Minister Honourable Ignatius Jean says government continues to support the industry, to the tune of well over 45 million dollars and has called on the public to rally behind banana farmers. According to Minister Jean, “Ultimately through the existing support systems, farmers and farmers groups will increasingly be empowered to effectively operate and manage the built infrastructure in a businesslike environment applying appropriate cost recovery mechanism.”

Mr. Jean gave the assurance that , “The Ministry of Agriculture will monitor closely the operational aspects of these investments to ensure value for money.” Minister Jean says through the efforts of the Banana Industry Trust and other interventions agencies like the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU), significant strides have been made in stabilizing the industry.

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