March 2, 2012
Minister says Ministry working to put bananas on sound footing

Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture has, disclosed that there has been no improvement in the quality of bananas being exported from this country.{{more}}

Caesar, in response to Area Representative for North Leeward Roland Matthews’ question in Parliament Tuesday, said that he was assuring the farmers of the country that the ministry would be doing all in its power to put the banana industry back on sound footing.

According to the minister, the quantity and quality of fruit currently being exported regionally and extra-regionally have been low.

During the first seven weeks of the year, Caesar said that this country exported a total of 5,100 boxes.

He, however, noted that the low quality and quantity was not solely as a consequence of the Black Sigatoka and Moko diseases, which have plagued the industry for some time now, but was to also be blamed on the continuation of other traditional problems.

“There is a dichotomy showing that the poor quality of the fruit is not solely due to the Black Sigatoka,” the minister of agriculture said.

He said that the poor quality was to be blamed on traditional mechanical damage the fruit endures during harvesting and transportation.

The low volumes of bananas being exported was also a consequence of cutting back exercise where over 434 acres of mature and bearing fruit had to be cut back because of the presence of diseases.

And while Caesar acknowledged other factors such as the large number of farmers who have opted to get out of banana production because of the changes in global trading arrangements and new rigid standards have also been a contributing factor to the decline in volumes of bananas that this country exports.

The Minister of Agriculture said that he was taking a more scientific approach, as his ministry was presented with the daunting task of controlling the dreaded disease, which has been plaguing the industry for some time.

Caesar said he has already written to a number of persons across the region, including Professor Clement Sankat at the University of West Indies, St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Dr Arlington Chesney, the Executive Director of CARDI for their input on scientific methods to controlling the disease.

This to complement the cutback programme which has already started.

But the minister contended that the people also needed to get involved.

“You must do your part,” Caesar said.

“Every farmer has to ensure that they assist the ministry.”

He said that he had already held consultations with WINFRESH and WINFAM and will be meeting with the local agro processors because according to him, the issue warranted a national effort.

Caesar also made a call for discussions to be held at the sub-regional level, citing that the problem was significant enough to be discussed at that level.

Meanwhile, he said that efforts will continue locally within the next six weeks. (DD)