St Lucia’s ailing banana industry is showing significant signs of improvement with a ready market in Europe for the fruit, Agriculture Minister Ezechiel Joseph said.
Joseph told St Lucia Times there is a demand for Windward Islands bananas in the United Kingdom and France but the buyers want guarantees that the region can provide good quality bananas on a sustainable basis.
He said the main issues facing the local banana industry are productivity and achieving consistency in quality.
“When I went to London, I had the opportunity to meet with some of major supermarkets and they are saying they want more of the windward island bananas. So there is a market. It’s for our farmers now to be able to produce the fruit in a sustainable basis. They need to increase the productivity so they can generate the kind of returns that they can generate from that enterprise,” he added.
To assist with the recovery, the government of St Lucia will provide farmers with fertiliser at fifty percent of the cost. The government also plans to assist the farmers with two applications of fertiliser before year end.
A team of extension officers has been working with farmers and other industry stakeholders to articulate the policies and programs of the government.
The Ministry of Agriculture is preparing to meet with farmers across the island soon to dialogue on the future of the banana industry.
“The figures that are coming in is very encouraging. If we continue with what I’m seeing we might reach almost 20,000 tonnes for the year 2017 despite the fact that the first quarter of 2017, one would remember that we’re recovering from Tropical Storm Matthew, so that’s significant.”
Joseph said a 20,000 tonne banana export in 2017 would result in nearly 300 percent increase over 2016 export numbers.
The Agriculture Minister said barring any unforeseen circumstances, such as a storm or hurricane, the banana industry is on course to meet the targets set by the Prime Minister.