May 18, 2018
Farmers, WINFA, discuss challenges, future of banana industry

Banana farmers gathered at the North Union Resource Centre on May 15 to discuss the problems, challenges, and prospects for improving the yields, quality and profits from growing banana.

This was the second such meeting for the year, and the farmers commended WINFA for the initiative as well as its leaders for the efforts in mobilizing for the meeting and for its continued support and advisory service.

This work, they assured the Association, is helping in managing the Black Sigatoka disease that now threatens the industry, and is ensuring that they produce good quality banana for a small regional market which WINFA has provided.Foremost in the minds of all was increased sale volumes and therefore: “Why are we not going back to the UK as St Lucia has done? When would we do so? If St Lucia can go then so can we!!”WINFA was mandated to take these questions to the highest level of the Government of St Vincent, to the Ministry of Agriculture and to WINFRESH, that all obstacles be removed and that every effort be made to promote readiness for export to the UK.

In this light WINFA was mandated to carry out the following tasks:• To request of the Ministry of Agriculture that farmers be allowed access to spraying equipment and supply of chemicals, so that they can carry out the required frequency of spraying needed to bring the Black Sigatoka disease under control.

The current system of relying on the ground spray team and aerial spray is not working since it is not being done often enough to contain the spread of the disease.• To work with farmers to ensure that they are certified under Global GAP and Fair Trade system.

In preparation of this process WINFA will continue its weekly visit to farms as part of its support and advisory services and to complement this with a Farmer For Farmer Training Programme.

In this program, farmers will train other farmers, under the supervision of WINFA technical team on fairtrade and global gaps farming practices.

The farmers’ mandate was reinforced when farmers, by acclamation, reaffirmed their commitment to WINFA and pledged to pay into WINFA, membership reapplication and subscription fees to support the Association efforts as the farmers’ representative and leader.WINFA believes that by leading the farmers’ self-help approach with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, WINFRESH and its network partners in CLAC, it can lead our farmers to exporting fair trade and Global GAP certified bananas to the UK early in 2019.