March 31, 2006
WINFA spearheads rally for farmers


The message sent by banana growers of the Windward Islands and local trade unionists to Cariforum and European Union (EU) negotiators meeting at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort yesterday was crystal clear.

With placards bearing messages like: Operation Make It Fair – No Economic Partnership Agreement Without Justice For Farmers; Listen To Me . . . {{more}}This Is About My Livelihood; We Want A Place At The Table; Put Subsidies On The Table and Agriculture Is Food Security In The Caribbean, the just over 60 protesters made their way from the headquarters of the National Union of Public Workers in Dalkeith Road, St Michael, to Aquatic Gap singing Bob Marley’s popular tune, Stand Up For Your Rights.

The protesters, headed by general secretary of the NUPW, Joseph Goddard, and chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, also sang: “We will never let bananas fall, we will fight for our rights and children’s rights.”

Renwick Rose, co-ordinator of the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association, told the DAILY NATION: “We are very concerned that these negotiations are going on and the preferences are being taken away. The pressure is being placed more and more on the farmers and hence we have been trying to lend our voice to their cause. We think it is important to let the EU see the people who are affected. They talk with our negotiators, but they do not see the farmers, so we want to let the voice of the farmers be heard in Barbados.”

He disclosed that in the last 15 years, the number of farmers employed in the banana industry in the Windward Islands had dropped from 30 000 to less than 8 000.

General secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, George De Peana, expressed concern over the impact of some of the decisions of the EU, adding they had led to the “disintegration” of the banana industry. He claimed sugar was the next target.

Meanwhile, at a rally held outside Grand Barbados Beach Resort, chief education officer and research officer of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, David Abdulah, accused the EU of destroying regional agriculture while putting plans in place to export expensive agricultural products to the region.

Goddard and Paul also expressed similar sentiments and suggested that representatives of regional farmers should have been invited to the conference. (NATION).