Minister examines new strategy for agriculture
March 3, 2006

Minister examines new strategy for agriculture

Despite the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, the contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from Agriculture did not increase in 2005, but Montgomery Daniel, Minister of Agriculture, remains optimistic there is hope for the industry. {{more}}

Daniel disclosed that in order to arrest the sector’s problems, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Banana Growers Association (BGA), and the Diversification Unit have put together a draft proposal with suggestions for the revival of the industry. Public debate on the proposal is being sought.

The Minister said the small units used as farms in St.Vincent and the Grenadines will not be sustainable in a competitive environment.

The minister is proposing that farms merge into blocks of no less than 20 acres. He said under this plan groups of farmers will operate under one block.

The plan also promotes centralized packaging, and farmers will be given the opportunity to pack A grade bananas for the international market and B grade bananas for the regional market.

He said in the new proposal, palletization will be done at base to cut costs. Additionally, the plan proposes an industry producing 50,000 tonnes of bananas on a yearly basis, 30,000 of which will be sold to the UK market, 17,000 regionally and 3,000 locally.

Though Daniel painted a grave picture of the challenges facing the banana industry, he still believes that there is hope.

He said many farmers have left the industry, while production and productivity have fallen tremendously.

The situation, he said, is compounded by the fact that the ACP countries, under which the Windward Islands fall hold only a 37 per cent share of the licenses in the UK market, and the Ministry of Agriculture is not even sure that at the end of this year licenses will be available to farmers in the Windward Islands. Last year the industry’s production was just under 20,000 tonnes – the lowest ever produced.

Daniel said the industry continues to show losses in areas such as the packaging materials and the debt of farmers is quite significant.

He explained that under the present status quo the industry will not be able to sustain itself, and to arrest these problems, the officials in the Ministry have reviewed the export production and local consumption statistics and have formulated a new thinking, strategy and way forward to ensure that there is a market place for our bananas.