Saint Lucia: Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere has spoken about the efforts to reignite the banana industry.
The minister highlighted several initiatives the Ministry of Agriculture facilitated to bolster the agricultural sector while reducing Saint Lucia’s food import bill. Working with the National Fair Trade Organisation on the banana industry was one of the successes.
“We were able to assist the NFTO with getting the 3.8 million dollars to assist them with the operations. We had a banana task force established to look into the whole industry, where it is, where we want to go, and some of the challenges. We had a special consultancy done to review the operations of NFTO, and then we moved to further reengage the farmers to ensure that they produce the quality of fruits exported to the UK market.”
The minister stated that Saint Lucia is currently exporting about 6500 boxes of bananas to the region.
Earlier, Minister of Agriculture Alfred Prospere led the Saint Lucian delegation and embarked on a quest to secure existing and new banana markets to assure the sector’s prosperity.
Recently, new research was conducted by the Export Saint Lucia and the National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO), under which a new market was secured in Antigua. At the end of the previous month (March), the first shipment of 460 boxes arrived in Antigua and Barbuda.
Following the success, the Agriculture Minister stated the growth of the sector had been highly affected due to maintaining high quality and consistent quantity of banana exports.
The minister further applauded the farmers of Saint Lucia for encouraging the quality of the exported fruit. The government of Antigua and Barbuda has expressed interest in importing high-quality bananas as our government has done for export to the UK.
He further stated, “Now, we all need to work harder so that we can ensure that we are maintaining and improving the banana quality so that the fruit can continue exports to the United Kingdom and other nations in the region.”
The minister further stated that he has an interaction with the established buyer on the possibility of using Antigua as a regional distribution hub for surrounding countries. “The meeting ended with positive feedback, and a high level of interest was shown,” the minister stated.
“For now, Saint Lucia has been moving between 2000 and 2500 per week. But we have asked to increase the value to 8000 because we believe the opportunity exists for additional distribution to Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, St Thomas and St Maarten.”
He added that the focus of the Ministry would remain on securing and guarding the existing banana markets as well as must work towards expanding the exports in regional as well as international markets. The Agriculture Minister has been encouraging the Saint Lucian farmers to ensure the quality of bananas remains their highest priority.