June 11, 2004
UK Shareholders at a loss with Caribbean bananas

British High Commissioner to the OECS John White said this week that, while supermarkets in the United Kingdom have underpinned bananas from the Windward Islands for a number of years, their loyalty to the region “has cost their shareholders and continues to cost their shareholders very considerable sums of money every year.” {{more}}
White said, as the UK is called upon to honour its obligations under the World Trade Organization, it cannot promise success for the industry in the future. He said that what the UK can do is try to understand the issues that confront the region and the proposals that the region may have for the inevitable adjustment process.
The British High Commissioner however stated that he wanted to make it clear the United Kingdom continues to value the trade in bananas that it has enjoyed with the Caribbean for many years.
Bananas coming from the Caribbean account for quarter of the bananas that enter the UK.
Change, said White, is inevitable. He indicated that the present marketing arrangement cannot and will not continue.
According to the ambassador, adjustments will have to be made, but the UK remains committed to helping Caribbean countries affected, especially the Windward Island countries, to meet the challenges of adjusting.
The challenges he spoke of had to do with improving the productivity of the region’s marketing aspects of the banana industry through the adoption of a new regime “and perhaps a more nimble marketing strategy.” He also spoke of the issue of diversifying the agricultural sector to that of competitive crops and the challenge of simply ceasing banana production altogether.
The High Commissioner also mentioned that the banana industry in the region was facing a big challenge from drug trafficking, which, he said, poses serious competition to the industry.
White then questioned whether in the long term “it’s wise to try to maintain and prop up an industry facing so many challenges.”
He, however, promised that the UK would continue to work with the region to secure a banana future.