WINFA hosts EPA march, rally
June 8, 2007
WINFA hosts EPA march, rally

Some may argue that the death of the industry is inevitable, but the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA) is determined to keep the banana industry alive.{{more}}

Last Sunday, hundreds of banana farmers and sympathizers gathered for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) rally at Georgetown; a show of the spirit of determination needed for the industry to have a fighting chance.

A joint effort of WINFA, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre and OXFAM Great Britain, the rally called for the release of the text of the EPA being negotiated between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states and European Union (EU).

Several speakers including WINFA’s coordinator Renrick Rose and Chris Sinckler of the CPDC expressed concerns that the EPA was lopsided and did not cater for the needs of the region.

There was a call for special provision to be made for Bananas in the agreement to help secure the future of the industry.

Over 200 farmers from St Lucia, joined representatives from Dominica, Grenada and host country St Vincent and the Grenadines to voice their displeasure over the agreement which is in its final stages of negotiation.

At the end there was resounding support for a declaration (Mt. BENTICK DECLARATION) that was read.

The declaration expressed concern that insufficient information was being provided about the negotiations and the possible effects on the livelihood of the people.

It also charge that the right of the people to participate fully in the process was being compromised by the lack of information flow.

Additionally the declaration states that the process of trade liberalization can have painful consequences for vulnerable small economies therefore due consideration should be given to the scope and pace of such liberalization.

The agreement also strongly questioned the refusal to offer specific provisions for banana and the intention to get rid of the quota system; a recipe for the complete decimation of the industry.

The declaration called on governments not to rush to sign any EPA unless the basic and fundamental interests of the Caribbean people are secured. It also called for a rejection of any suggestion that the Windward Island farmers should restructure out of banana production.

A call was made to the negotiators to ensure that specific measures are included in the EPA to make concrete and binding provisions for bananas; provide mechanisms for ensuring the food security of the region and support efforts to develop regional and national markets.

Governments are asked in the declaration to provide opportunities for genuine participation of civil society in the EPA process, including the timely release of information and to make public the draft text of the EPA.