September 30, 2011
Farmers call for compensation for their bananas

The long awaited oil needed to spray banana farms may have arrived, but the question of compensation for banana farmers weighs heavy on the minds of those who represent the men and women in the industry.{{more}}

As farmers continued protest actions this week, against what they consider a high level of disrespect and poor communication, banana officials are calling for concrete commitment of income support for farmers who continue to suffer from the effects of the Black Sigatoka disease affecting bananas.

Philemon Allen, chairman of the National Fair Trade Organization, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, September 28, as farmers picketed the Administrative Complex on Bay Street, said that some farmers are finding it difficult to get back to the lands because they do not have the finances to do so.

Allen said that the picket, which began earlier in the day at the Ministry of Agriculture offices at Richmond Hill, is an expression of the farmers’ dissatisfaction of what they regard as a high level of disrespect and poor communication.

“The oil is here, but no one had told us that the oil is here. We know that it was supposed to be here on the 26th and the plane would be in the air on the 27th.”

“Every single farmer would be happy to know that the plane is in the air to help to alleviate the damage caused by Black Sigatoka, but the other thing is if you take responsibility for the damage, the farmers need to be compensated. You can’t tell us to cut back because of your negligence and we are not being looked after.”

Allen’s sentiments were echoed by former WINFA coordinator Renrick Rose, who noted that although the banana industry is not carrying the weight of the national economy as it used to, it is still critically important, especially at a time like this.

“The whole question of support for the industry is not just for the farmers, but the economy is in serious trouble and if banana continues to go down like this, it could create further economic hardship for the rest of us.”

“We have to be concerned about what happens if all those people go out of business; what about all the people who work with them, all the young people who depend on them, what will happen in that situation?”

Billydorn Haywood, representative of the Greiggs Fair Trade farmers, says he feels as though farmers are being ‘taken for a ride’ if there is no agreement on income support for farmers who were hit by the latest setback to the industry.

Haywood said: “In St. Vincent and the Grenadines they are saying that banana is dead… it seems as though they are looking for a way to get rid of bananas, but the thing is, if bananas go down, the economy is going to go down with it… it’s bananas that was the one which was carrying the banks and the credit unions.”

Last Friday, farmers began picket actions at the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters at Richmond Hill, lamenting the lack of spraying of their fields and demanding compensation for their loss of oncome.

According to Rose, the farmers are going to continue their pickets and protests until an arrangement is made in relation to compensation of farmers.(JJ)