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Farmers are the ones running banana industry, says Gonsalves

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has contended that the local banana industry is essentially being run by banana farmers, and that government has a vital part to play in the management of the industry.{{more}}

The Prime Minister was responding to a call made by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace for the Banana Act of 2009 to be repealed so that control of the industry would revert to banana farmers.

Eustace on his weekly radio show earlier this week insisted that banana farmers would do a better job at running the industry’s affairs; since the government has demonstrated incompetence.

The Prime Minister, however, noted that despite the removal of the Banana Growers Association (BGA), farmers still have an influential hold on the industry, and the government is not directly responsible for the position in which the industry finds itself.

“The farmers are running it; that’s what is happening. WINFARM is running bananas. And then the farmers are involved in WINFRESH.”

“It is this government which has insisted that WINFA gets the ninth seat on the WINFRESH board, and they nominated Renrick Rose,” Dr. Gonsalves stated.

“Former Minister of Agriculture (Montgomery Daniel) outlined how one or two public servants simply dropped the ball, but nobody (in the government) brought the Black Sigatoka here. It came in the way plant diseases come, in an open society, and we have dealt with it honestly.”

According to Gonsalves, WINFARM, the industry’s marketing arm, has struggles of its own, and he questioned how these agencies would be able to manage the entire industry, should the government turn over control to them.

“We put four million dollars inside of the budget for the Banana Services Unit to pay staff engaging in extension service and to do the spraying; now how can you get WINFARM, which is finding difficulty because of the fall in production, to pay for boxes and even salaries for their own people to take on four million dollars? Is that what is being suggested? Or should we provide a four million subsidy to WINFARM?”

“You can say as happened in St. Lucia that you privatize it; you put everything in the hands of the farmers…. And they are now asking the government to take control of that for them.”

The Prime Minister said that he is of the opinion that the Opposition Leader is unable to process the information that he is receiving concerning national issues.

“I am satisfied that as events move swiftly in the modern world, he simply cannot process the information, make a decision and a statement in accordance with that decision; save and except the simple mantra ‘the government should let the farmers run it.’”(JJ)

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