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Banana farmers picket Ministry of Agriculture

Banana farmers picket Ministry of Agriculture

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Disgruntled banana farmers expressed their dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Agriculture by staging a picket outside the Ministry’s Kingstown offices last week.{{more}}

Calls for the Ministry of Agriculture to accept full responsibility for the current state that the banana industry has found itself in, and for the proper compensation of farmers were voiced and written on the placards borne by the unhappy men and women who stood outside the Ministry’s offices on Friday, September 23.

Chairperson of the Grand Sable Free Trade Group Cordelia Scott, who was present at a meeting of banana stakeholders last Tuesday, September 20, indicated that she was not satisfied with the answers given by ministry officials at that meeting, in relation to assistance from the ministry.

“I was looking forward to hearing the compensation that would be given to farmers. If it is in the books that they are supposed to be paying $3, $5, $10 for bananas when they are destroyed and… up to the time they didn’t say how much is going to be paid to those farmers who got their bananas cut down since 2009… only farmers who started to cut back from July of this year will be compensated; I think that is grossly unfair.

The Ministry of Agriculture was supposed to spray the bananas; they did start and then they lapsed; the cycles they were supposed to give never turned up and they took full responsibility of the situation we are in right now and still not compensating the farmers adequately.”

Scott said that the excuse given by Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel about documents being held back by a Ministry of Agriculture official for almost one month was unacceptable, and that the senior officials should have been more vigilant.

“If I have a farmer working with me I am supposed to make sure that what I tell him to do is done.

“If you have somebody working with you and for a month that document was on that desk, what are you doing? Are you not following up? So I don’t take that.

Who is responsible in the office? Is it the Minister? Is it the Chief? Is it the Minister of Finance?

We farmers need answers and money because the bills are not being paid.”

Commenting on the income support that farmers are supposed to receive, Scott lamented that farmers have complained that payments were not made to them; rather, they were told that they have other means of income, including shops, trucks and employment.

She said that this was also unfair, since the income support was to be given based on their banana farming and not on other factors.

She also noted that the promised two sacks of fertilizer were insufficient for the farmers, since it takes about four sacks per acre to sustain the banana plants.

“They want us to buy the other two? What are we going to buy the other two with if you have not sold any bananas since 2009?

If they had continued to spray, the bananas would have been able to be salvaged; but right now, there are no bananas and they have to have continuous spraying.”

According to Scott, banana farmers are at their limit and it is time for the various stakeholders to get serious if the banana industry is to survive this current setback.

“I am here standing for them to see that we are really serious… people are so disgruntled… they are not getting no support from nobody… bills are to be paid and up to now we are just getting broken promises and nothing is being done,” she lamented.(JJ)

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