Already struggling under the neglect and ineptitude of the UWP Government, the banana industry now faces an uncertain future now that the marketing company, WINFRESH, is in serious financial trouble.
Speaking at the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s Second Virtual Market Steps public meeting on August 23, Moses Jn. Baptiste, the SLP’s spokesman on Agriculture and the MP for the rural Vieux North Constituency reported news from the British press informing that WINFRESH has been placed in administration. One such article in the ‘Business Sale Report’ online (July 29th, 2020) says, “…the financial position of the company has become untenable and mounting cash flow pressures have resulted in the appointment of the joint administrators.”
Joint administrators Michael Lennon, Sarah Bell and Philip Dakin of Duff & Phelps were appointed on July 23, reported the East Anglian Daily Times. A company goes into administration mainly for protection from creditors who are certain to sue to collect outstanding debts. But the process often ends in sale of the Company’s assets and winding down of operations. On August 11, 2020, the appointment of administrators took effect at the WINFRESH company house in the UK, but why did our Minister of Agriculture and WINFRESH Director, Ezechiel Joseph, not make a public statement here, asked Jn Baptiste, who reminded the Minister that Saint Lucia held 39% of the shares in the Company.
“What will happen to the farmers and their families? What will be the new marketing arrangement for bananas?” Hon. Jn Baptiste asked, adding that “the situation of WINFRESH and the banana industry in Saint Lucia is frightening.
For reasons known to only Minister Joseph, the grim news about the recent position of the Company has not been officially disclosed here”. The former Minister of Agriculture declared that he was therefore fulfilling his duty to provide news that the government is hiding.
The SLP spokesman on agriculture linked the problems of WINFRESH directly to the failure of the UWP government and its lies on agriculture, saying: “The reality is that this government has failed the farmers where WINFRESH is concerned. The Minister for Agriculture who receives directorship fees from WINFRESH must come out in the Parliament and tell the people of Saint Lucia what is happening in the banana industry and what is happening to WINFRESH.
“When you look at what is happening with Covid-19, if we don’t have an agriculture industry to raise the country up, we are in trouble.” Jn Baptiste also condemned the Agriculture Minister, Ezekiel Joseph for a recent statement he made to the effect that St. Lucian farmers cannot manage money, and that was why the Government had allocated seeds and other materials to them for COVID 19 relief rather than cash- a development that angered many farmers.