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Operation Cut Back banana farmers now seeing results

Operation Cut Back banana farmers now seeing results

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Banana farmers who fell victim to the Black Sigatoka disease, and have gone through the Operation Cut Back and Plant Back processes,{{more}} are now reporting steady progress in their fields.

On Tuesday, members of the media accompanied Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar, Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson and other agricultural officials, as they visited some of the rehabilitated banana fields.

Stops were made at Mt Greenan, at the fields of Christopher Gunn and Barswin Barnum.

Gunn and Barnum are two of the many farmers who had to cut down their entire fields and replant.

The farmers told the media that although it was a “hectic and frustrating” process, “it was all worth it.”

“I want to encourage all farmers to plant back banana because right now banana is the way of life and if not for banana, plenty of us couldn’t build a home, buy a small ride, send our children to school and pay their bank bills…

“So, I encourage all farmers who are out of banana to try and go back in banana just like me,” Dunn said during a visit to his five-acre field, where banana trees with bunches raging from nine to 13 hands were seen.

Barnum, for his part, said “If I don’t plant banana, especially at my age, I don’t know where the bread would have come from… I want to encourage a lot of farmers, because I know without bananas in this country, the smaller man feel it plenty and all now we feeling it.

“So, we are thankful for the help from Mr Caesar and the ministry and I hope the other farmers can follow me and see what I’m doing and with the support from the ministry, we could go much further.”

Barnum’s field contained a mixture of banana plants at four different stages. Some were at the harvesting stage; some a little over six months and about to bear; others that were just about three months old and some which had been recently planted.

According to Chief Agricultural Officer Robertson, Barnum replanted in stages because he did not want to risk replanting his entire field at once.

“So, he didn’t want to put back his entire block into bananas just yet, so he started with a portion which has started bearing and then he’s been expanding,” Robertson explained.

By replanting one’s field in this manner, Robertson said farmers would be able to harvest bananas on a regular basis and at the same time ease their labour burden.

“I think it’s fitting to say that the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Banana Services Unit, through the extension services at the helm, led by the honourable minister and myself, we gave the farmers the assurance that with their support and with the support of the government, we will be able to produce bananas successfully here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, despite the challenges of Black Sigatoka,” the Chief added.

Robertson attributed the success with eradicating Black Sigatoka to the farmers who, according to him, “live up to the expectations by doing their part.”

He, however, reminded farmers to continue managing their fields by de-leafing the infected leaves and fertilize on time.

Meanwhile, impressed by what he had seen during stops to the fields, Caesar said “this is definitely a sign and a signal that the banana industry is on an upward trend.

“Through cooperation and commitment from the farmers, working along with the ministry and other officials, we have been able to get the Black Sigatoka disease under control.

“With a bit of hard work and patience, we can overcome,” the minister stated. (AA)

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