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Farmers chose the wrong time to protest

Farmers chose the wrong time to protest

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is of the opinion that banana farmers, who protested the absence of spraying of their fields, did so at the wrong time.{{more}}

While addressing staff of the Ministry of Agriculture on Thursday, October 6, at the Peace Memorial Hall, the Prime Minister commented on protest action taken by farmers in late September, due to frustration over their fields not being adequately sprayed with the required fungicides.

This absence of aerial spraying caused a major outbreak of the leaf spot disease Black Sigatoka, and caused farmers to cut back their already diminishing yields, resulting in low and poor quality export and loss of income.

Dr. Gonsalves, speaking on the issue of the farmers picketing the offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and the administrative building, indicated that while he did not have a problem in them doing so, it should have been done sooner.

“If I were a farmer active still, I would have more than likely been on the picket line protesting, because as I had said, I understand that they are frustrated.

The only thing, I would have been protesting in July, I wouldn’t protest after the plane is in the sky spraying or when the oil is just arriving. That’s the only problem I have with the protest.

The truth is this; is that after the ministry told them that the ship wouldn’t be in because of the weather, they disbelieved….”

The Prime Minister informed the gathering that when the cost of fungicides, oils, aircraft maintenance, fuel and others were factored in, it was estimated to cost about four million dollars for an annual control program of the disease, which included a minimum of six spraying cycles.

He went on to explain that the delay in spraying was due to a lapse in administrative duties, as well as acts of nature.

“We know that the reason for the delay in the spraying has to do first of all with the fact that one or more officials in the Ministry of Agriculture dropped the ball; and unfortunately, for about ten days, the weather systems made it very difficult for the boat to get here before.

We should have had a situation where the Spraytex should have been here no later than early to mid July and we are aware that if you drop the ball for six weeks because of administrative lethargy, sloth, inadvertent negligence… it’s not something you can just get in as soon as you order them; it is going to take a good six weeks.”(JJ)

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