More Banana Blues
Banana growers told to produce or perish
WINFRESH has told Dominican farmers that from January 2014, each farmer must produce a minimum of 45 boxes of bananas per week or they won't be able to sell any.
That demand has placed an additional burden on farmers who are fighting a battle with Black Sigatoka, the deadly banana leaf spot disease, a well-placed source said.
"Farmers from Dominica are taking blows; they are not receiving much assistance from Government, the industry has collapsed…packing materials are expensive and Black Sigatoka continues to cause havoc," the source stated.
Vernon Henry, a banana farmer for over 20 years says as far as he is concerned the situation needs improvement.
"It's very hard to produce bananas now. From the time I know myself in bananas I have been hearing about a back pay…it seems it's still on the plane coming down," he said. "They need to invest more money in Fair Trade; government needs to help us to meet our way otherwise is down, down, down we going."
The Sun also spoke with farmer Cato Ferreria who believes that the situation is indeed grave.
Ferreira said: More farmers going to leave the banana industry; Black Sigatoka is poorly managed and is spreading rapidly...Dominica produced about 20,000 boxes per week five years ago; we now produce 1,000 boxes a week. That means we have lost 19,000 boxes per week over the last five years and it also means that the country has lost over half a million dollars per week since a box is sold at 31 dollars.
When contacted officials of Fair Trade in Dominica declined an invitation to comment on the matter and directed us instead to the WINFRESH office in St. Lucia.
However, Dr. Errol Reid of WINFRESH flatly refused to speak to us on the matter saying: "I am not in any position to speak to you on these matters; call the CEO and the chairman."
Chief Executive Officer of WINFRESH, Bernard Cornibert, we were told, was in London and could not be reached; we were not able to get numbers to reach chairman Montgomery Daniel.
However, reports indicate that the export of bananas from the Windward Islands has drastically decreased this year and is at an all-time low.
For weeks one 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 six years and 41 percent less than the same time last year); St. Vincent has exported a mere 180 tonnes (57 percent less than it exported in the same period last year).