(CMC) – The producers of Windward Islands bananas, WINFRESH, Tuesday said it is holding talks with the St. Lucia government and the locally-based carton manufacturing company, WINERA, regarding the use plastic crates for the export of the fruit to the United Kingdom.
In a statement, WINFRESH said that the change from the cardboard cartons would have implications for the continued employment of its workers.
It said that the change in packaging is based entirely on the decisions of the major United Kingdom supermarkets, which purchase bananas from WINFRESH.
“WINFRESH’s largest supermarket customer in the UK, last year, decided to convert fully to the IFCO crates by the end of 2018 and other supermarket customers plan to follow shortly.
“Therefore, this is an industry-wide trend to move to recyclable packaging. Indeed, the IFCO crates are not new to the local banana industry. More than 50 per cent of the bananas from St. Lucia were already being shipped in those crates before the recent change was considered,” it noted.
The company, whose principal activity is the sales and marketing of Fairtrade bananas from the Caribbean region as well as the Dominican Republic, said that “to the extent that the banana industry is its principal customer, the change to the new plastic creates “will have implications for the company and so, understandably, the union which represents the WINERA workers, the National Workers Union (NWU), have expressed their concerns to the company and the relevant authorities in the government.”
But the company maintains “it is important to understand that our banana industry operates in a competitive market-driven environment and so WINFRESH has no control over the behaviour and decisions of its customers
“We have no choice but to comply with the demands of the customers and to implement the changes to protect its business and the banana industry. To do otherwise, would be disastrous for all concerned, i.e. not just for WINERA and its workers, but as well for the banana industry and the Saint Lucia economy,” it added.
The NWU said it would soon issue a statement on the matter.