Saint Lucia agriculture officials are working on urgent strategies to address the problem of poor quality banana exports to the United Kingdom after a warning that this country could lose a significant contract.
Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere recently held talks in the UK with Fyffes, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose regarding the issue of the quality of bananas exported by Saint Lucia.
“The trust is not there and they do not want to hear every time we are saying ‘We will do this. We are going to do it’, but it is never done. They want to see that some action, urgent and serious action is being taken and this is not about writing a strategy on paper,” Prospere told the programme – Agriculture On The Move.
He said the UK companies want to know that Saint Lucia engages farmers and supports them.
In addition, Prospere disclosed that the UK officials want to know that the National Fair Trade Organisation (NFTO) is structured and local farmers are ready to meet the market’s quality requirements.
“I was really shocked when I heard Fyffes and Sainsbury in particular say that they do not need Saint Lucia bananas to survive. They indicated to us very clearly that they were getting bananas of higher quality from countries like Ghana, Colombia, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic,” Prospere stated.
He recalled that people had referred to Saint Lucia bananas as ‘green gold,’ considered the sweetest in the world.
Prospere also recalled that this country benefitted from preferential treatment.
But the Minister lamented that things had reached the point where UK companies are saying they do not need this country’s fruit.
“Just imagine our banana industry collapsing as a result, the negative consequences for farmers and their families -our country as a whole because you’re talking about more than 600 persons currently still involved in banana production, ” the Minister declared.
And he explained that as the person responsible for agriculture, he faces a severe challenge that this country must address as soon as possible.