Farmers to receive payments  after four-year waiting period
November 22, 2013
Farmers to receive payments after four-year waiting period

After a four-year wait, banana famers who are owed Cess payments will receive them today.{{more}}

The announcement was made on Wednesday by Agricultural Diversification officer Ashley Caine, during a press briefing at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Banana farmers of all districts who sold bananas in 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012 and also farmers who have not collected outstanding banana and/or Cess 2013 payments will receive payments,” Caine announced.

Caine said payments will be made at the WINFARM office, formerly the Geest shed, in Kingstown.

Payments will be made from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Agricultural Diversification officer, however, advised that payments would not be made without a valid identification card and farmers who sell bananas under different names will require a note from WINFARM.

He further implored that if farmers are sending someone else to collect a payment on their behalf, a note signed by the farmer and certified by a Justice of the Peace, along with their identification card will be required.

“Be advised that payments will not be made after 3:30 p.m. on Friday,” Caine added.

Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar disclosed that “critical discussions” are ongoing among a team comprised of stakeholders within the banana industry and the Government to resolve the issue of the late Cess payment.

“This discussion is taking place in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, particularly to discuss the negative impact that the low volumes experienced after Hurricane Tomas is having on WINFARM, which is the purchasing arm of the FAIRTRADE organization,” he revealed.

“This Government would have piloted a bill through Parliament to provide to WINFARM, the sum of $755,000… and some of those monies will go towards Cess payments,” the minister revealed.

Caesar commended WINFARM, for its contribution towards the banana industry here and said it was no fault of WINFARM why the payments had not been made earlier.

“WINFARM has done excellent work in terms of the purchasing of bananas. However, in recent times, there would have been some problems and these problems, I must note, would have risen because of the reduction in terms of the number of volumes being exported. Therefore, it has really been a difficult exercise for WINFARM.

“However, it is in the mind of business that when the factors of production is just not there, we have to make certain critical decisions and we have already engaged WINFRESH and its local company VINCYFRESH to let us sit at the table and see how we can reassign and reorganize some of the roles and responsibilities that were held by WINFARM.

“In the meantime, however, WINFARM will continue to purchase the bananas. I have been advised that the [banana] boxes have been sent out on a regular basis now and farmers will be receiving their payments,” Caesar stated.

The Cess is a percentage of the money owed to farmers for bananas sold, which is held back by the purchaser. Caesar explained to SEARCHLIGHT that usually, the farmer collects the Cess in the form of inputs and fertilizer.

“The problem arose when post- Tomas the volumes were so low that WINFARM had to use this Cess that they were holding for the farmers to run WINFARM’S day-to-day operations. Hence, when the farmers came for their inputs from WINFARM the money was already used. So, the Government’s $755,000 intervention into WINFARM was to pay the Cess owed to the farmers by WINFARM; pay WINFARM’s staff; bills and monies outstanding for boxes, trade unions etc.”

The minister said the Government also had to pay farmers whom WINFARM owed for bananas.

“Discussions are being held now to have WINFRESH take over the role played by WINFARM, which is to purchase bananas for export. It is not a mood of blaming anyone. The industry has to be remodelled in light of the many attacks – Tomas, floods, droughts and black sigatoka,” Caesar said.(AA)