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Farmers should own the banana industry, says Eustace

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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace is of the opinion that the ownership of the banana industry should go back into the hands of the farmers, and not remain in the hands of members of Cabinet.{{more}}

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, April 3, Eustace called for farmers in the country to speak out, saying that there was a need for the agriculture sector, and by extension the banana industry, to be taken more seriously.

During the March 26 sitting of the House of Assembly, Eustace asked Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar to give a breakdown on the weekly banana exports for the eight week period ending March 16, 2012.

“The shocking response was that only one shipment had been sent to the UK comprising 180 boxes. No shipments had been made during the remaining seven weeks,” the Leader of the Opposition said.

“This represents a de facto suspension of banana shipments to the UK of which I had spoken to earlier and the government aggressively denied earlier this year,” he continued.

“That is the state of our bananas,” Eustace said, adding that the public knew that the ministry did not do enough to control the Black Sigatoka disease, and that now the farmers were paying the price.

He questioned whether anyone from the government had traveled to the UK to assure the supermarkets that there was a commitment on the part of the farmers.

“Can we afford to lose the UK market?” Eustace questioned, as he called on the government to take the issue more seriously than it has in the past.

According to Eustace, the New Democratic Party was committed to the rehabilitation of the banana industry, adding that this needed to be done within a reasonable time.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Caesar has been encouraging farmers not to lose hope in the industry.

He added that farmers would be visited by officials from his ministry as it continues with efforts to combat the Black Sigatoka and Moko diseases, which are being blamed for the drop in exports.(DD)

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