“The move towards privatization in the late 1990s may be what saved the banana industry in St. Lucia,” said Senator Dr. James Fletcher during his address at the Annual Conference of the Saint Lucia Labour Party in Vieux-Fort South last weekend.
Dr. Fletcher lauded the increase in banana exports of Saint Lucia compared to that of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica over the same period. Whereas our sister islands recorded significant declines in exports, Saint Lucia’s production has increased this year.
Senator Fletcher noted: “It does not give me satisfaction to inform you that so far this year, for weeks 1 to 32, Saint Lucia has exported 7,623 tonnes of bananas (3 percent more than it exported for the same period last year), while Dominica has exported only 974 tonnes (which is its lowest level for the past 6 years and 41 percent less than the same time last year), and St. Vincent has exported a mere 180 tonnes (57 percent less than it exported in the same period last year).”
Dr. Fletcher further explored the impact of the policy to privatize, in the face of a changing economy.
There was a time when these countries combined produced the same volume of bananas as Saint Lucia. Now Saint Lucia produces over six times what they produce.
While we are sorry that our sister islands have had to suffer the almost complete collapse of their banana industry, we are pleased that the steps we took to introduce commercial discipline in the banana industry in the late 1990s is probably what saved us and has resulted in Saint Lucia being the only island in the Windward Islands that still has a banana industry to speak about.
During his presentation, Senator James Fletcher applauded the prime minister for the foresight and courage he displayed when he took the decision to privatize the banana industry and also congratulated Hon. Moses Jn. Baptiste on the management of the agricultural sector.