(SNO) – Banana farmers in the south of the island who have been pondering their fate in the industry are now breathing a sigh of relief.
That’s because Winfresh has reneged on its decision to discontinue operations at the Vieux Fort port and have farmers in the south to market their produce at La Caye, Dennery.
The farmers were given the good news at a meeting Minister of Agriculture Ezechiel Joseph held with them yesterday (Wednesday, June 27, 2018) at the La-Retraite Agricultural Centre where they broached a number of concerns.
According to the minister, when he got the news of such a decision, he held a meeting with management of Winfresh and asked them to revisit that decision.
“As far as I am concern that’s a no-no. I am not supporting it, the government is not supporting it because it does not make sense…” the minister told the farmers.
He added that the government had no input in such a decision.
The announcement was greeted with an applause from the farmers, some of whom were already preparing for the worst.
Moments before the meeting commenced, a farmer told this reporter in an interview that such a decision would of severely affect his business, adding that if the decision was not reversed, he would have had to leave the industry and go into plantain production.
“Travelling from Laborie all the way to Dennery after working a whole day on my plantation would of kill me…” another farmer said.
According to Joseph, the government is committed to the improvement of the agriculture industry but farmers must play their part.
“You must put your foot down and get things done…”he said.
Some of the other concerns broached by the farmers were the manner Winfresh suspends them because of the condition of their banana plants, the condition of their roads, the price of leasing lands to them in certain areas and the cost of agricultural output.
As it relates to the price of leasing lands, a farmer said the former administration had increased the price from $250 per year to close to $5,000 per year and called on the minister to use his power to reduce it.
According to the farmer, since the increase, none of the farmers have paid their lease.
“We need your help. Write off the debt…” he appealed to the minister.
And as it relates to the manner in which farmers are being suspended by Winfresh, Ezechiel said a meeting will be held among Winfresh, National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO) and the government to discuss the matter.
The minister promised the farmers that the government will look into these matters and try its best to address them as soon as possible.