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A welcome development

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28.MAR.08

The worldwide outcry over steeply rising food prices has helped to focus some attention on the state of Caribbean agriculture and the region’s farmers. Neglected for so long, it is not often that we get news of any positive developments in the agricultural field. Hence it is with more than just curiosity that we received the news of the latest changes in the banana industry in the Windward Islands.{{more}}

Changes are nothing new to banana farmers or the industry as a whole, but the announcement by WINFA, the registered fair-trade producer organization in the Windward Islands, and WIBDECO, the banana exporting agency in the Windward Islands, is of fundamental proportions. For whereas the industry has been characterized by a number of intermediaries, signing contracts and acting in the name of the farmers, under the new dispensation, the producer organizations are themselves undertaking responsibility for the management of their affairs.

The signing of the Sales and Purchase Agreement with WIBDECO, therefore, represents a step up the chain by the producers and their organizations. But of equal significance is the challenge, in an era where “competitiveness” and “efficiency” are hallmarks of modern business, for the farmers organizations to demonstrate that they can make a success of their bold venture.

There is no shortage of skepticism in this regard, particularly in an industry not renowned for efficient management. Yet the Fairtrade farmers cannot afford to fail. Having “talked the talk”, they must now “walk the walk”. Their very livelihood and the future of many rural communities depend on them. We can only wish them all the best in their endeavours.

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