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PM urges farmers to ‘hang in there’

PM urges farmers to ‘hang in there’


Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is appealing to banana farmers to “hang in there” despite the frustrations that the industry is at present facing.

Dr. Gonsalves returned to the country Wednesday, July 26 following a brief meeting with Peter Mandelson, former Cabinet Minister in the British Government. He is a very influential person on the European Commission with responsibility for Trade.{{more}}

The Prime Minister headed a three-member delegation to that meeting. He left the state on Monday, July 24.

Addressing the media at Cabinet Room on Thursday, the Prime Minister said that the banana industry is very critical to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He said that as the Caricom leader with responsibility for bananas, he had to lobby for the Windward Islands and Jamaica, Belize and Suriname, which he reminded the media had different circumstances, therefore, leading to different lobbying positions.

Dr. Gonsalves said the African Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) have already surpassed the quota stipulated by the EU. That quota is 750,000 tonnes and at present, the ACP countries have increased the volume of production by 200,000 tonnes.

This excess, he explained, would attract the tariff of 176 euros per tonne to be paid on bananas imported from Latin American countries.

The Prime Minister said the administered tariff rate quota holds “real problems” for the Windward Islands and Jamaica, who are mainly high cost producers.

He said the two-hour meeting with Mandelson was to ensure that there were no changes to the tariff of 176 euros per tonne and to persuade the EU not to reduce the 40% licences and keep the current regime as it is.

The Prime Minister said that although it was difficult, ways to keep afloat would have to be sought. “We have to be more efficient and produce at a lower rate,” he said.