By Caribbean News Global
The major question is; what’s the alternative? Is it pineapple, cocoa, avocado, breadfruit, soursop, watermelon, pumpkin, plantain, cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, cantaloupe, or honeydew melons?
Minister for agriculture, fisheries, food security and rural development,Alfred P. Prospere told reports earlier this month:
“The whole dependency on just bananas in the past, we need to move away from that.” He further commented on the UK situation, stating: “We saw what happened to the bananas in terms of the UK fortunately for us we have a very good market for us in the region that can take our bananas.”
Conversely, the minister did not give information about export tonnage, transportation/shipping, the readiness of farms/farmers, and the mechanism for inputs.
In a request for comment for this article, a savvy former minister commented to Caribbean News Global (CNG), “Bananas have moved away from Saint Lucia.”
Reporting on a visit to the United Kingdom (2021) minister for agriculture, Alfred Prospere; and the minister for commerce, Emma Hippolyte, in a statement addressed the “collaboration on export diversification and the vulnerability of Saint Lucia’s agriculture sector.” Nonetheless, in 2022 the UK suspended banana trade with St Lucia.
A recent press release from the ministry for agriculture highlighted partnering with the National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO) to provide more than $400,000 of vital input subsidies to banana and plantain farmers.
“This collaboration signifies a momentous step as the government extends its support beyond conventional boundaries, recognizing the pivotal role played by plantain farmers in the agricultural sector. Through the newly-established subsidy program, both banana and plantain farmers will receive essential supplies including, two 50kg bags of fertilizer per acre and two litres of nematicide per acre. This comprehensive package aims to address the immediate requirements of farmers, particularly in revitalizing the health and productivity of their crops. Chairman of the National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO), Eustace Monrose assured seamless coordination and equitable distribution of resources, reinforcing the commitment to all farmers.”
“The subsidy holds tremendous significance, and I am deeply appreciative of the substantial support it offers to our farmers in the agriculture sector. I want to assure you that we are fully committed to efficiently managing these resources and ensuring their equitable distribution to reach every deserving farmer. Under our careful supervision, we will successfully extend this essential subsidy to all those who require it.”
“This assistance is aimed at providing farmers with the necessary support to resume production. I am confident that the demand for fertilizer is a top priority. The modest financial aid of $2.4 million that we are extending will undoubtedly benefit our banana and plantain farmers, as well as others within the sector. This assistance is anticipated to facilitate their recovery over the next six months for banana and plantain farmers. Compared to their counterparts in the vegetable sector, the recovery period might be around two to three months at most. Thus, we consider the government’s provision of this support as a significant and meaningful gesture towards our farming community.”
On further observation, reference is drawn from the project entitled – the Enhancement of the Efficiency of Production – Distribution Supply Chain in Fruit and Vegetable Sector (Second Term) from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2026, to strengthen Saint Lucia’s agricultural capacity building, is sponsored by Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (Taiwan ICDF).
The five-year programme, into its second term, is expected to promote increased production and consumption of local produce while reducing the food import bill was officially launched on Friday, February 11, 2022.
Saint Lucia has eight agricultural regions: Is the focus still on generating interest in the seven targeted crops: pineapples, cabbages, sweet peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, watermelons, cantaloupe, and honeydew melons?
The article ‘Dreaming up scapegoats: St Lucia banana fiasco needs a full inquiry’ featured Enough is Enough by Cassius Elias (Pages 298 -335) A brief synopsis of the Banana Industry in St Lucia.
Similarly, on the matter of a new vision for Lucian farmers (Green Gold) Enough is Enough, page 315, explained the need for “producing at a more competitive level, new enabling policy, diversification strategy … to produce two or three alternative crops for the export market, and a range of crops for domestic consumption. […]
In the ‘policy and logic’ of the government of Saint Lucia – Banana vs Tourism, former minister of agriculture, Cassius Elias, wrote:
“The main question should have centered on what Saint Lucia wanted from the banana industry. Saint Lucia and the Caribbean ‘had no fixed position’ and thus continue to drift from coal – sugarcane – bananas – tourism.”
Saint Lucia Bananas
In 2021, the minister for agriculture, fisheries, rural development and food security, Prospere, receiving much-needed technical and financial support from Taiwan’s Technical Mission, said:
“With the severe and almost complete destruction of our banana fields, this support will go towards rehabilitation of fields, improving drainage, improving farm irrigation, farmer certification and training, pest and disease control, and lessening the dependence on agrochemicals, while eliminating over-reliance on one market and building resilience in the industry.”
“Food security has always been a serious concern to me as a minister,” said Prospere. “Even when I sit in cabinet on Mondays, I’m being pressured by other cabinet ministers that we really need to take this food security issue very seriously.” He added: “We have seen the trend that the banana industry is taking and we are not sure if the banana industry will remain with us for too long, especially the UK market. There’s an urgent need for us as a ministry to look at a strategy to encourage more of the banana farmers to get into diversification.”
Saint Lucia bananas and agriculture purposeless
The undetermined efforts of the governments of Saint Lucia continue as expressed previously ‘[had] no fixed position‘ on bananas. Thus, the government’s provisions of support are trivial gestures towards agriculture.