June 8, 2007
Dr. McIntyre: Banana battle an uphill task, but keep fighting

The banana industry is being told to fight for survival but be careful not to hang hopes too high – because the world economic tide is set against its survival.{{more}}

Dr Collin McIntyre, Minister of Agriculture in the banana producing state of Dominica spoke to SEARCHLIGHT during the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) rally at Mt Bentick, Georgetown last Sunday.

The rally, which was organized by the Windward island Farmers’ Association (WINFA), OXFAM United Kingdom and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) saw hundreds of farmers come together to voice their concerns over the EPAs between the Caribbean and the European Union which are in the final stage of negotiations.

Dr McIntyre said that he understood why rallies like the one held last Sunday will create a charged atmosphere and stir emotions.

He said that he understood how important banana production is to the region, especially the Windward Islands but warned leaders including politicians not to give the hard working farmers false hope of grandeur.

“If the EPAs open the market we cannot compete,” Dr McIntyre said.

Repeating what he said during his address at the rally, Dr McIntyre told SEARCHLIGHT that productivity is key, stressing that the tonnage had to be improved in banana production.

“We can’t stop the wheel of productivity,” he said during his address at the rally, adding when he spoke to SEARCHLIGHT “I mean to be honest it is an uphill battle but we have to keep fighting.”

Dr McIntyre, the son of a Banana farmer in Dominica, said that it pains him to drive through Dominica’s countryside

and see farmers and their children suffering.

He noted that while he remembers the times when there were over 5000 farmers, that number now stands at just over 700.

When he spoke at the rally, local Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel, himself a banana farmer of 25 years, said that the fight for bananas is a “difficult nut to crack.”

He said that the US based Multi National banana exporters will stop at nothing to get their way: the opening of the market, free from quotas and duty, which would drive small producers like the Windward Islands out in the cold.