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(SNO) – Member of Parliament for Vieux Fort, Moses Jn Baptiste, has described the government’s failure to export bananas to the French as a “catastrophic failure.”
He pointed to statements made to the media by Agriculture Minister, Ezechiel Joseph, as confirmation that there were no structured arrangements in place to have weekly shipments of the island’s bananas to France or Martinique as was promised.
“The repeated promises to Saint Lucians of an expanded banana industry into the France or Martinique were meant for election purposes and not based in any form of reality,” Jn Baptiste, who is the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s (SLP) spokesperson on agriculture, said in a statement.
Last year the government announced that it continues to explore new avenues with the French market, with testing of Saint Lucia’s product in that market expected to begin later that year.
“This Administration insisted that they would commence weekly exports of bananas to the French market and they are directly responsible for its failure,” Jn Baptiste stated.
He went on to say that on January 27 2020, Joseph stated that farmers were complaining about their deteriorating situation in the banana industry.
“He further chided some farmers for their seeming lack of responsible actions in the certification process and noted that they were not able to reach the quota of bananas which was allocated to them by Winfresh,” he said. “This attitude of the Minister flies in the face of progress which he and the Prime Minister publicly pronounced during or in the period leading to and after the 2019 budget debate. In fact, the Minister infamously claimed that banana exports had increased by 200% when in fact the exports declined by nearly one thousand tonnes between 2016 and 2018.”
Jn Baptiste added, “It is unfair and callous for the Minister to place the blame for the failure of the policies of his Prime Minister and the UWP Administration on bananas at the doorsteps of our farmers. Minister Joseph further stated that the so-called trial of a shipment of bananas to England for onward transmission to France failed and I quote, ‘…because of the size of our fingers, the small fingers, we were not able to pack the requirements as requested by that company….’”
He describe such statement as an “insult to the farming community and the Minister demonstrated his lackadaisical and uncaring attitude to such important matters.”
“The Minister’s comments on January 27 suggest that the bananas were packaged shipped and then the company was contacted with information about banana fingers,” Jn Baptiste noted. “This comedy of errors again suggests that the Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture had no tried and tested marketing arrangements for their much-touted French market.”
He stated that the SLP believes that “banana farmers are just in their calls in increasing numbers, for the Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture to initiate actions which will end the suffering and losses of so many of them who have lost so much.”