As the government looks to expand the local agriculture sector, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Agriculture Minister Ezechiel Joseph have been searching for marketing opportunities for Saint Lucia.
During a three-country trip between August 6 to 14, 2016, both men met with a French company in Morocco to discuss opening up new markets for local farmers, particularly those in the banana sector.
Joseph said the visit was a fruitful one, stating that it was realised during discussions with the company, that there are a lot of opportunities for banana farmers and agriculture in Saint Lucia.
“It’s an opportunity that we welcome because as a government, we believe there is need to explore opportunities for our farmers as it pertains to market,” he told a media conference on Monday.
Joseph said a meeting is planned with Winfresh for today (Aug.16) to get their commitment towards working with the French company that has shown a keen interest in marketing Saint Lucia’s agriculture products.
“Winfresh is our entity and we will not engage in any activity that will compete with Winfresh…Instead we see it as an additional opportunity for the company,” the agriculture minister asserted.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said that the government is also looking to enhance Winfresh by creating a new market opportunity in Martinique and Guadeloupe and is looking at the possibility of sponsoring an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom market with a brand of local bananas.
However, Chastanet said these are discussions he and Joseph will have with the Winfresh team, as they look for more opportunities aimed specifically towards revitalizing the banana sector.
“I want to discourage farmers from going on their own and growing more bananas because we have to make sure that the market is there to process it,” he added.
On the other hand, Joseph said the government has realised that the level of banana production is not allowing for farmers to be competitive.
“When we talk about 5,000 tonnes per acre per year compared to our competitors doing 15-25,000 tonnes per acre per year. You would appreciate the type of challenge we have with that crop,” he said.
The agriculture minister said the new administration is committed to the sector and they are now developing a programme that will give further support to farmers to get them back into production.
“We have seen that there are a number of crops that can be grown locally and we will support a new technology to do that. Why not capitalize on the opportunity?,” he questioned.
Joseph said based on Saint Lucia’s long outstanding commitment with Morocco, that country has given a commitment to send another shipment of fertilizers and also plans to look into analyzing the nutritional content of local soil. They have also given a commitment to assist with the short term crops and other technical areas.