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(SNO) — The government of Saint Lucia is attempting to tackle the dilemma facing banana export to the United Kingdom (UK) and is predicting higher production in the first half of 2019, according to a Ministry of Agriculture press release.
On Thursday, December 20, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Agriculture Minister Ezechiel Joseph, along with his team, met with representatives of the National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO), Banana Productivity Improvement Project, and Winfresh, to discuss the matter.
Winfresh had said that prior to Tropical Storm Kirk, it was selling 15,000 boxes of bananas per week to the UK but projection for 2019 falls to 6,000 per week.
But Joseph said the market cut is unacceptable, adding that production of the fruit will be very high in the new year.
“Moving forward we are seeing that the production will be very high in the first half of next year and the type of figures Winfresh is talking about cannot be accommodated, they have to go out there and get the markets,” he stated in the news release. “So today the meeting was really to discuss that issue and I am happy they have understood our position as a government, and they will continue to collaborate with the NFTO to satisfy the marketing opportunities that we believe can be explored.”
Following the meeting Chastanet said he is content with its outcome.
“We’ve had meetings with Winfresh with regards to the statements they made. We don’t share their sentiments and I am very happy to see that whatever misunderstanding was in place, and what they were intended to try and do, which was not really to limit the industry, but certainly they were bringing up a problem in the market, we are satisfied that we have a strategy to resolve that,” he stated in the release.
The prime minister said he is currently exploring opportunities in France and other countries which will consequently boost the banana export market.
He also called on young farmers to find creative and innovative ways to exploit the entire banana plant rather than just the fruit.
“I’m encouraging my young people to start looking at what by-products which we can use with bananas, both with bananas itself but also the leaves and stems of the banana tree,” he remarked. “We need to earn money on every component of a banana tree, not just the banana in order to be competitive, but I know we have the capacity and the innovation to do that in Saint Lucia, and I want to reassure the banana farmers and reassure the public of Saint Lucia that its government stands firm behind the sector,” Chastanet said.