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Rose: Purchase agreement historic breakthrough

Rose: Purchase agreement historic breakthrough

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by Viclene Matthews 28.MAR.08

A historic breakthrough is how Renwick Rose, Co-ordinator of the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association (WINFA), has termed the sale and purchase agreement signed between his organization, the Windward Island Banana Development Company (WIBDECO) and the National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO) of St. Lucia.{{more}}

Rose said the agreement, which was signed in St. Lucia on March 20, 2008, represents the culmination of more than 10 years of effort, and is a “triumph of foresight over hindsight”. The agreement, he said, will facilitate and consolidate the Fairtrade initiative.

Similar contracts for Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are expected to be signed by the respective NFTOs shortly, a press release said. These agreements have been entered into to bring the existing supply chain in the Windwards in full compliance with Fairtrade Labelling Organization regulations.

Rose was speaking at a press conference last Tuesday, 25 March, at the Kingstown Credit Union League Conference Room. He noted that this new agreement will be used to streamline the banana industry and reinstate confidence in the farmers.

The WINFA head disputed claims that the agreement is in any way sinister. “We have been working with Government, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Banana Growers Association (BGA) for a smooth transition,” he said.

According to Rose, the government is committed to pass a law in Parliament, which he said would repeal the previous banana act and dissolve the BGA. The banana advocate said that the BGA has lost thousands of dollars, which tax payers now have to repay.

In wrapping up his address, he reinforced the point that the agreement would empower the farmers and allow them to run their own affairs. He assured that this was not the old banana association, but instead a system in which the farmers would be involved. He urged farmers to work together to make the industry viable.

Philemon Allen, Chairman of the National Fair Trade Organisation, said that Fairtrade and government have been holding discussions on how the structure should go and ways in which they could streamline the process. He said it was finally decided that government would “take on the technical aspect and Fairtrade and WIDECO, the marketing”.

Allen stated that they want things to be done “transparently and democratically”. A new entity would be put in place which would take the form of a company and offer shares to members. “We want it to be beneficial for everyone,” he said.

He said that the Fairtrade has a lot to offer and there are many things in store for the farming public, one of which is a Social Premium which would provide scholarships and a compulsory health plan. He said they have a disaster fund, a road and shed repair programme which farmers would benefit from.

Allen said that the social premium has contributed to the Liberty Lodge Agricultural Project and the Salvation Army Children’s Room.

He added that the FTO operates on critical principles and nothing is hidden.

“We cannot jumble money in corners and keep and not spend it,” he said. Allen explained that a monitor comes to the Windward Islands to audit the programme.

“We want farmers to feel comfortable; Fairtrade is here to make a difference in the community.”

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