June 4, 2004

Fish and Banana need local ingredients

Fish and banana is a favourite dish of many Vincentians, though regretfully if not enough of us. Coincidentally in the space of 10 days two major events are taking place based on these two food items, or commodities as the more commercial-minded among us will say.
First, on May 31, there was the annual Fisherman’s Day activities, highlighting the importance of fish to the local economy. {{more}} After the complaints of earlier years concerning the virtual usurping of the international holiday, Labour Day, by Fisherman’s Day, it now has a day of its own on a holiday derived from the Christian Whit Sunday. Even as we extend congratulations to the respective winners in the various categories, it is vital that the day itself and the relevance of fishing to our economic and social development be borne in mind.
Next week the focus shifts from sea to land, from the most popular marine product to the most productive terrestrial one, the banana. As Heads of Governments and other distinguished participants gather for the timely Conference on Bananas being hosted by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, one particular aspect, the marketing of our bananas overseas, in Europe to be precise, will no doubt occupy a most prominent place.
This is not surprising, for external markets can play a pivotal role in socio-economic development in small countries like ours. Just as we are concerned about securing and even expanding our share in the international banana market, so too will our fisherfolk be pondering on measures to get greater access to international marine food markets. In all of this external relations, trade policies and agreements, the crucial issue of compliance with international regulations, the physical and commercial environment, are of great significance. Thus fisherfolk will be as anxiously awaiting the completion of the new infrastructure in the main Kingstown market as on word of how it will make us more compliant with EU rules and thus open up lucrative markets there.
But just as fish and bananas alone cannot make a tasty pot, one needs to have the herbs and seasoning, the lime, ochro and tomato too, in the same way that both the fishing and banana industries are in need of local ingredients as well. They are essential to the finished product ready for consumption and purchase. We quite rightly seek the external markets but can’t we look to make both commodities more readily available, more presentable for the local market? We encourage school children in the United Kingdom to eat bananas for their nutritional value, yet neglect to do so on our own soil. As for fish and the young, is imported chicken not the preference?
There is much we can do to promote and make greater use of what we consume, here right in SVG. After all, doesn’t charity begin at home?