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St. Lucia’s banana industry outperforming that of Dominica and St. Vincent – Minister Fletcher

Press Secretary to the Prime Minister

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Public Service Minister Dr. James Fletcher

“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.

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12 comments

  1. It would be folly to believe that " the move towards privatization in the late 1990s may be what saved the banana industry in St. Lucia.” This statement is an obfuscation of the truth Dr. Fletcher. Privatization may be associated with the increase in banana production but it is not the cause. To determine the causation of increased growth an elaborate survey must first be conducted with particular attention being given to all variables associated with privatization. Dr. Fletcher has once again used statistics to distort the facts and mislead the nation. Sir, you ought to have known that false dogmas of privatization should not be placed ahead of St. Lucia's real economic problem.

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  2. Crow,
    You said" mistakes were made during the process which may have helped in making the lives of some farmers hard.By your own admission those mistakes were detrimental to the quality of life the farmers had previously enjoyed.
    Please tell the farmers what those mistakes were.It is very important you do so.
    Also can you tell us(1)How many farmers were engaged in the banana industry before the NO CUT STRIKES?
    How many farmers were engaged in the banana industry just before privatization?
    How many farmers were still involved in the banana industry two years after privatization?Why did so many farmers leave?
    The answers to those questions will provide much needed clarity to your comments.
    THE banana market is still available.

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    • Yes Harry, mistakes were made! It is a fact! But lets look at the reality. Between 1992 and 1997 the number of farmers involved in the industry fell by 49%. And that was the trend across the Windward Islands. This decline was not sudden, it was gradual. And by the way, all that happened before privatization!

      The argument that privatization killed the industry (although I think it is not dead) is a weak one. To illustrate my point, lets compare wage cost for producing between St. Lucia and Ecuador for that period (1992-2002). For us the avg. wage was US$11 while Ecuador's was US$4. How could we compete with that? Our fruit was more expensive to produce! So our farmers was investing more money in their farms and getting less out of it! That could not be sustainable . . . so the only outcome was to get out! And, that is what caused the decline.

      Compton should have prepared our farmers for that inevitability . . . he didn't! Why? For political expediency. Since his hold on power hinged on "the farmers". You think this isn't true? Well, on what premise did he win on his comeback in 2006 . . . that he will bring back the banana industry to what it was!

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    • And by the way, yes, the market is still available! But for us to thrive in it, the number of people involved will be a whole lot less than what it was in its hay day. That is the reality! The days of green gold for all is history and we must deal with that sad reality!

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  3. Perferct OK the banana industry is no longer what it was. Both Compton and Kenny played their part in dat. OWEVER I think of the two only Compton was part of when it was thriving. Also Fletcher is a joke. He is comparing our banana productio to that of Vincy and Dominica. We hv ALWAYS had a better economy and banana production than both of these countries. So what is Fletcher's point??? He ws given a mandate by Compton to produce mayonnaise, ketchup etc, from bananas, what did he do? he took the scholarship got the 6 million dollar equipment and then became PS. The equipment is still sitting at Union taking dust. Fletcher pls shut up.

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  4. Even in death Compton is a villain, according to the Labourites. But try as they might, they will never erase his true legacy, nor accomplish what he achieved for St Lucia. You have to be a comedian when in 2013 you boast about St Lucia's banana production, which to say the least, is paltry. Check out the history of banana production in St Lucia and you will see what I mean. And if you do not know the history, keep quiet instead of running your mouth about things you know nothing about.

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    • not according to Laborites. It is a fact. The facts prove this. Banana production pre 1993 was just great! Subsequent to that,it began to die. Why do you think there was the banana riots while Compton was alive and in power? Because the farmers were losing out and they wanted better from our leaders but that didn't happen. Two lives were lost, tragically! So, dont even try it . . . Compton was a villain!

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  5. It would seem that in st.lucia what determines if some remarks is nonsence is who said it and not what was said.
    Jimmy fletcher said that the move towards privatization may be what saved the banana industry in St.lucia.
    After winning the elections in 1997 the SLP government did many harmful things to St.lucians.Two of the worst ones were (1)privatization of the banana industry (2)Stopping the school subdidized transport system.(you would recall they said that the World Bank told them to do so)
    The question is,why were so many people (small farmers) forced to leave the banana industry?
    Not because there was no market but because they could not afford to buy the inputs required to continue producing bananas.The move to privatize forced them to buy everything cash.From boxes to fertilizer ete ete. The government knew this and yet still they gave Pat Joseph and the Salvation Committee SLBGA to do as they pleased and they did.Incidently Kenny Anthony who was producing bananas at the time did what only a wicked man can do. Where as his actions cut off the the farmers line of credit (fertilizer,vidate,ete,ete,)he sought and got the the same line of credit from WInfresh(formally called winward islands banana exporting company).Now,was that fair?The credit is good for him but not good for the farmers?He could afford to buy his imputs cash and the majority of the farmers could not.Yet he chose to secure his credit and cut off the farmers knowing full well they would be forced to leave the industry and become unemployed.Is this called helping the farmers?
    The decision to privatize the industry was a political one.(study politics, public administration and sociology).Kenny used the banana farmers to help him win in 1997.These farmers were self employed and did not rely on government employment.Kenny realised that if they can rise against the UWP if neccessary they will rise against him as well.To prevent that from happening he had to take away that independence and force them to depend on him thereby ensuring their loyalty.Look around.THe majority of the people who work in step were in one way or another connected to the banana industry.(planters,packers,selectors,ete,ete.)
    Step was never meant to be short term.It was the replacement for those people whose quality of life was reduced significantly and deliberately
    Today step continues.The dependence on the SLP continues and loyalty is assured.
    This is a situation where a government destroyed what was a major foreign exchange earner (distroying lives in the process)of a country to ensure that it remains in office.
    The banana market is still available.

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    • This guy knows his stuff!

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    • This is the self serving reasons you and the UWP give for the fall of the Banana industry. But, you are wrong! The farming industry really died because Compton killed it. During the 1950s to its height in 1992, banana was king . . . for this was all the farming we knew. That was when money flowed. Because we had the preferential treatment!

      Because bananas were of great economic importance to Europe and the US, trade wars were fought as early as the 1940s but became heightened between 1993 and 2001. Now, there was a meeting in England with banana producing countries and (I believe) the EU. Compton and Eugenia Charles were among Caribbean leaders who attended this meeting where they were told of the impending dismantling of the preferential regime that protected the Caribbean banana industry. When Compton returned, he told farmers that "all is well" and that he had intentions of making the industry even bigger that it was. The farmers believed him. At the same time Eugenia Charles was telling Dominicans the complete opposite.

      When the US took the matter to the WTO, and the protection began to dismantle, our farmers were not ready for that! Their cost of production was going up, while their returns were low. Market forces, beyond our control, dictated the price on the world market. Forces such as cheaply produced fruit from Latin America.

      Our farmers were asked to diversify but all they knew was bananas and were either not interested in diversification or they were now too much in debt to even attempt.

      Compton did that to them! Labour was no where in the picture!

      When Labour finally got in, they figured the best way out for farmers was to privatize the industry. It is my opinion that mistakes were made during this process which may have helped in making the lives of some farmers hard but the damage of the Compton era is the main cause for the fall in the industry.

      The following is a piece written in 2006 which expresses the sentiment I share.

      http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/caribnet/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000048/004831.htm

      Who killed the industry . . . Compton!

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  6. Comparing yourself to underperformers and proclaiming you're the best is an act of desperation. Why not compare to "better days" when production was much higher.

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