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Winfresh CEO denies company is a dictatorial entity

Winfresh CEO denies company is a dictatorial entity


Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Winfresh Bernard Cornibert is refuting claims that his company is a dictatorial entity.{{more}}

The CEO, commenting to SEARCHLIGHT in response to a press release issued by the Windward Island Farmers Association (WINFA), said on Wednesday, July 27, that Winfresh, formerly WIBDECO, prefers to concentrate on ‘seeking ways to resolve the many problems plaguing the banana industry, rather than sweeping them under the carpet, as many others would do.’

The WINFA release of July 22, issued by the secretariat based in Paul’s Avenue, Kingstown, St. Vincent, had called on the governments of the OECS sub-region, as shareholders in Winfresh, to intervene on behalf of farmers, and to insist that Winfresh cease what it calls ‘dictatorial, anti-farmer actions, which are hurting not only farmers, but the economies and people of the Windward Islands.’

The release expressed alarm at the difficulties that were being faced by Fairtrade bananas in their export of the product to the United Kingdom, through Winfresh, the sole marketing agent.

According to the release, Winfresh has been blaming the British markets for the difficulties that farmers are experiencing, resulting in the farmers facing huge losses.

“These farmers, whose production had been wiped out by the devastation of Hurricane Tomas in October last year, resulting in loss of income for eight months, have made huge sacrifices, with the support of the governments of these islands to restore production.”

“This was not only of personal benefit to the farmers, for, given the economic hardships being experienced by the entire Caribbean as a result of the global crises, our islands badly need every bit of hard currency such as those generated by Fairtrade banana sales,” the release went on to say.

The release said now that exports to the UK have resumed, Winfresh, “which enjoys a state-sponsored monopoly on extra-regional banana exports, and which had been pressing farmers to resume production, is creating all sorts of difficulties for farmers in exporting Fairtrade bananas, pinning the blame on British supermarkets. This is happening at a time when the regional market itself has become saturated.”

The release stated that many banana farmers are considering abandoning the industry, due to the hardships being faced as well as the difficulties in the marketing of non banana produce such as plantains and root crops.

The Cornibert response indicated that as a matter of policy, Winfresh abstains from any kind of public show of disagreement with the organizations that it deals with, saying that would be considered counter-productive and not the manner in which Winfresh conducts business.

“More so, we do not believe this kind of conduct is in the best interest of the banana industry, the farmers and our business.”

“In fact it has the potential to do more harm than good to all concerned.”

“Suffice it to say that we would leave it to you and your readers to draw their own conclusions on how much anti-farmer is a company that made available EC$ 550,000, EC$800,000 and EC$500,000 to the governments of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St.Lucia and Dominica respectively, to assist with the post Tomas recovery in the agricultural sector,” Cornibert’s response concluded.