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(SNO) — The Saint Lucia banana is facing mounting problems in the United Kingdom (UK) market with projection for 2019 showing a 60 percent cut in export.
Communication manager at the Winfresh Banana Export Company, Silvanius Fontenard told DBS TV that supermarkets in the UK are presently dictating who they buy from, what quantities they are willing to buy, and how much they are going to pay for it.
He said prior to Tropical Storm Kirk, Winfresh was selling 15,000 boxes of bananas to the UK but projection for 2019 falls to 6,000 per week.
“One of our key customers was Fair Trade Bananas and we sold around 6,000 boxes per week to that specific customer,” he said. “And they made a decision to combine their product lines to reduce the number of product lines that they have. So in essence they decided to combine Fair Trade with Organics. In essence, that Fair Trade line at that Organic line will be combined and it must be Fair Trade Organics. In essence, the bananas must be Fair Trade and they also must be Organics.”
Fontenard said regional markets can be sourced for Saint Lucian bananas but competition is fierce.
“There is competition,” he stated. “It is not a free-for-all.”
He said the Dominican Republic lost a fair amount of market share in the UK to companies based in Africa.
“And they are aggressive in the Caribbean market,” he explained. “What is interesting is that their quality is consistent.”
Fontenard noted that the Windward islands produce good and poor quality bananas, “but often when those bananas get to the UK they are sorted out by Winfresh”.
Bananas from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific islands have been facing mounting problems in the UK market following the end of the LOME Convention in 2001 which gave preferential treatment to the fruit in the UK.