Prospere Issues Statement On UK Banana Trade Suspension

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The following is a statement on the UK banana trade suspension by Hon. Alfred P. Prospere, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development.

In July of 2021 when the Saint Lucia Labour Party government came into office, we found a banana industry that had collapsed under the UWP government.  Banana trade with the UK was halted for two years.  The critical infrastructure required to efficiently operate the industry was dismantled. The main banana exporting company WIBDECO/Winfresh ltd went into administration. key assets such as the ripening facility at Stanstead (UK) and Winfresh’s stake in the Geest shipping line were sold off to third parties to meet debt payments.

This meant that the main components of the banana exporting company such as shipping, marketing, and logistics were lost. The local producer base/farmer’s organization, the NFTO was facing financial losses and technical challenges. They had to immediately assume responsibility for the commercial arm of the trade although they did not have the resources and expertise to adequately perform that role. The situation at the time seems rather bleak.

My government, in recognition of the socioeconomic consequences and the critical role of the banana trade in rural communities found it necessary to intervene for the sake of maintaining social peace and economic mobility in rural communities. In the national interest, we saw it prudent to inject the necessary financial and technical support required to recommence trade with the UK supermarkets. A loan facility was established to inject EC$3.8 million dollars into the NFTO.

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To further emphasize the commitment of the government to our farmers and the people of St Lucia, a government lead delegation traveled to the UK to meet with the supermarket representatives to ascertain how best to proceed with the trade and finalize contractual relations with our farmers.  As the trade evolved, I demonstrated the interest of the Government of St Lucia in the banana trade by keeping in direct contact with our farmers, the NFTO, and our UK supermarket partners.

In early May of 2022, a technical delegation from the UK, visited St Lucia to determine the state of readiness prior to the commencement of trade.  The technical field visit was deemed satisfactory and trade with the UK commenced immediately on the 15th of May 2022.

During the period of trade, the Saint Lucia Labour Party Government has continued to provide support to our banana farmers by subsidizing inputs such as oils and fertilizer to farmers. In addition, we have actively pursued other regional markets with a view of providing further opportunities for our farmers.

We were successful for a certain period, whilst we tried to rebuild the banana industry. Unfortunately, the long-term impact of covid on the supply chain and the ongoing war in Ukraine have presented some major challenges that threaten the economic viability of the trade at this time.

The high shipping and fuel cost associated with a container of bananas is stated at US$8,200.00  per container and rising. Although fifty percent of the shipping cost was subsidized by the supermarket chain, it was difficult to sustain once fuel prices keep rising. The costs of key inputs such as fertilizer, oil, bags, and other inputs are rising daily. The extended journey time to reach the UK is proving uncompetitive as compared to other suppliers.

The Geest shipping line has a monopoly over the route they have shown no interest to modernize the container units that transport our bananas. It is critical to note that if the UWP government had not sold off our stake in the shipping business, we might be able to subsidize our shipping cost and modernize the containers to our requirements and select a shorter travel route that would give our bananas a competitive advantage as was previously done when we once owned shares in the Geest line.  Today we are now being haunted by this critical decision to sell our stake in the shipping business.

The ongoing challenges required a review of the trade to evaluate the business case and ascertain whether the parties are making the monies that they had anticipated prior to the commencement of the trade.

The contracting parties, NFTO, and the UK supermarket chain have informed the government that they have mutually decided to suspend the trade as they monitor the current situations impacting the trade both in the Caribbean and the UK. The cost-of-living crisis and rising energy costs over the next few months have created major uncertainties for everyone. As soon as both parties are satisfied that it is profitable to proceed then the trade will be activated.

Fortunately for our farmers, the efforts that we have employed in pursuing the regional markets are showing signs of progress and growth. The consignment of bananas originally assigned to the UK market will now be diverted to the regional market and the weekly trade will be maintained.

The NFTO along with government support are currently following up on additional inquiries within the region and shortly they will be able to increase our regional market presence and volumes.  We continue to encourage our farmers to maintain the highest quality that is associated with our bananas as we look forward to expanding the regional trade.

My government, a St Lucia Labour Party Government that “Puts People First”, will continue to do what is necessary, to ensure that we respond to what is in the interest of our farmers, as they seek to make a decent living, by doing what they love, and what they are very good at doing.

SOURCE: Ministry of Agriculture

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.

15 COMMENTS

  1. SLP govt was beating their chest after the market was reactivated now you all want to come and blame UWP. Thought you all had it all figured out. You all were elected to work for the people, put them first and stop the blame game.

    • ……. jackass it’s not the SLP that got a beating ITS St LUCIA THAT GOT THE BEATING. All Lucian’s no matter what party are proud of our banana’s and would like to see them on the world market because they are the best. It’s just one of the few things the country export so it’s not a party lost this affects the whole country. Tourism should not be our bread and butter alone

  2. He had to blame the former administration to try get to his point.
    Simple, you failed to continue producing bananas whether it is because of high fuel prices, the point is, you could not deliver. Stop using high fuel prices as your excuses. Soon when five years is over this administration will blame Russia/Ukraine war and fuel prices for their failure to deliver just like UWP blame Covid for not completing their task.
    Looks like now people will have to use this line as their defense in any matter.

  3. Everything that SLP cannot handle or refuse to handle. they blame the former administration. this is the first mark of ineptitude. this is like hiring a guy to work for you because you were not satisfied with the other one. and instead of delivering on the work he said he would do, he simply blame the guy before him. any good manager with some sense would fire this guy!

  4. Wow. All references to government are “my government”, the government of the St. Lucia Labour Party. No reference to the Government of St. Lucia. That should tell us something about the thinking.

  5. It is TIME to stop spinning top in mud!!! SLU does not have, never had, and will never have a “Banana INDUSTRY”! What they have is a Banana Exporting Business …

    It is time to get away from exporting bananas, and put the WHOLE BANANA TREE to work!! So much can be derived from the BANANA TREE. With proper INNOVATIVE planning, SLU can produce:
    > wearable materials from the banana tree stem (YES!!) – EXPORT
    > condiments from the banana itself (essences, flour, sweets, preserves, juices) – EXPORT
    > disposable plates, etc, from the leaves – EXPORT
    > and a whole lot more.

    All this is being done in the Southern Asian countries. If the SLU government does a complete 360 degree turn – all this can be achieved … then we can say, we have a BANANA INDUSTRY!!

    But the MYOPIC misfits will not see that.

  6. Remember the banana industry started collapsing under SLP when they privatised it and put the incompetent ” MAL CRAB ” in charge . SLBGA and all its assets went into nonexistence. I was then a succesful banana farmer. When chaos and bad management among the banana companies and the government appointees started wrecking the industry I stopped planting in order to avoid losing all my savings.

    • ……”it started collapsing under the SLP” Ok and what happen under The United Worthless Party Raine of Terror?? What was written in The London Times about St Lucia’s Banana Industry Under Allen Chastanet ??… it’s there in Black and White for the world to see who CAUSED IT’S DEMISE. The UWP Government always finding themselves the critique of the foreign press, and it’s ALWAYS NEVER NOTHING GOOD.

    • Thjere are certain components of the agreement which brought into play the privatisation of the banana industry. Political interference, failure to honour all clauses of the said agreement, failure to enact laws to protect the privatised industry, the collective failure by the Windward Islands governments to deasl witht he administrative issues in WIBDECO and the resulting impact on the farmers, use of WIBDECO’s monies to finance the start-up of competing banana companies, bad decisions such as the lease of two ships – Geest Dominica snd Geest Saint Lucia, failure to utilise leased plantations in Costa Rica, WIBDECO’s failure to allow SLBC to ship contaerised fruit commencing in 2000; are just a few of the many issues which caused the banana industry to first undermined and then collapse. If the truth be told, there are many politicians in Saint Lucia who would be forced to fly to counties unknown to save their skin because of what they did to the banana industry following privatisation. Issues of the Voice and Crusader Newspapers respetively have full accounts of the mess which took place then. There is a lot more which can be said but would be good for the present day journalists to do some research and enlighten the public.

  7. Bananas farmers not prospering under prospere. The man is a failure all round and corrupt to bout. Insulting the people who voted for him when they demand accountability by telling them he was on his farm and they come and call him to run seat for them and he eh owe them nothing. Raise the rent in the Vendors at the view point….charging 150 for a tent at the fish fiesta for one night……just digging out the poor people eyes who trying to make a dollar but giving his inlaws big contract. The man can’t even run his home or constituency council properly is a whole ministry you expected him to be able to run…..the man not even planting banana on his farm you think he will look for market for banana farmers to get rich on his head? Zot couyon

  8. It’s sad to see a hack y’all can only see colors and blame. The report clearly shows that the guy is trying look at least there is still a market for our bananas. We didn’t cause Ukraine war stop being blinded by red or yellow the good thing about this government they are transparent and taking action. Uwp sold their shades in Geest steups. The guys had no business sense. Y’all don’t see y’all freaking crazy to do that and y’all on the bandwagon that SLP is doing the worst. TCL tun

    • Boy shut up because you are one of those who allow these con men to fool you. When prospere posed in front of a small off license shop in East London boasting about banana exports to the UK starting again, this was part of the whole gaslighting of the population because the impact of the imports from St Lucia to a small market stall in London is a drop in the ocean. Even the few boxes he boasted about being imported by waitrose was a farce because anyone who lives in UK know that uppity stores like that aren’t going to buy jab en sac and our farmers are not ready yet with their quick buck mentality ….always on a rip off vibe…. trying to pass off mediocre products in a competitive market place. Bottom line is pros was grabbing at straws fooling the people because he already knows that st lucia has lost its place on the banana export stage

  9. The SLP goons who come on this board under different names, especially low grade, is there to defend any flipping ting and all marjee his government do. the majority of lucians not benefiting from this administration. everything is the fault of the UWP. they can’t manage jack sheet. the only people that the SLP fool is the dumb and dumber. and given that st lucians actually voted in those con artists, the island is filled with dumb ahses. get off your buts and stop blaming the former administration. and do the job you people are supposed to do! you all cant govern a country that much is clear!

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