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‘No business as usual’, Allen tells banana farmers

‘No business as usual’, Allen tells banana farmers

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Farmers here have been told that they need to pick themselves up and move on.

This was the advice from Philemon Allen, Chairperson of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Fair Trade Organization (SVGFTO) on the occasion of the Farmers of SVG Fair Trade Organisation Inc 10th general assembly held on Thursday, June 2 at the Methodist Church Hall.{{more}}

Allen told those present that the banana industry today was in a very precarious state and that it was not going to be business as usual.

“We have to brace ourselves for what is to come,” he said.

Allen further explained that there are international marketing organizations such as Fair Trade that have been doing well in guaranteeing a market in Europe for Windward Island bananas, but what were the farmers doing locally?

There are people advocating for Fair Trade products in the supermarkets in England Allen explained, but yet the brand was not being sufficiently promoted here.

“It is time for is to shake off that sloth and rise again,” the SVGFTO chairman said.

“We know that there are stumbling blocks, but we know how to bounce back,” he continued.

Allen urged the farmers to move forward.

He said that there were some farmers that were still complaining and while he identified the issues that affected the agricultural sector, and more specifically the banana industry, Allen said that Fair Trade has been and remains committed to helping in times of need.

Julie Francoeur, Fair Trade Labeling Organisation’s (FLO) Liaison Officer to the Caribbean acknowledged that it had been a difficult year.

She however was of the opinion that the hard times demonstrated that the farmers of the Windward Islands had the ability to bounce back as was in the case of banana farmers in St Lucia who had recently resumed shipping bananas.

According to the FLO official, the farmers in that country have discovered that the difficult times of Tomas had brought an excellent canvas to begin producing again.

She explained that despite the landslides and flooding that had devastated most farms in that country, it was later discovered that the landslides brought with it fresh top soil.

“As Fair Trade farmers we have already seen many challenges, this is not the first hurricane and it will not be the last, but you have many friends willing to walk with you through difficult times,” Francoeur said.

She added that there were more opportunities that made way for new farmers to come on board.

According to Francoeur, within recent times there had been a demand in England for Fair Trade plantains, sweet potatoes, ginger, spices and other fruits.

She however cautioned that while there was room for more farmers and a wider selection of crops, joining the Fair Trade family meant that there would have to be a lot of coordination among the farmers.

She further explained that the banana producers of the Windward Islands were among the largest banana Fair Trade producers anywhere, which in turn means that when production is halted, it impacts negatively on the market.

But farmers are not just crucial in ensuring that the international markets are supplied with produce.

Kozel Peters, Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA) Coordinator (Ag) said that the role of farmers was quite crucial to the development of any nation.

“Food production is not something that is optional,” Peters contended, adding that food production needed to remain as a high priority.

“So even when times are difficult, it is important for us to continue to produce and produce well,” she said.

Peters was also of the opinion that as a Fair Trade organisation, those involved must be aware of the changes that are taking place and implement strategies to address those changes.

The region imports a lot of food and with the impact of climate change internationally, this may have an adverse impact on us.

“We have to increase production to improve the quality of life and we have to remain competitive,” she said. (DD)

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