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SVG needs about $40 million for banana rehabilitation: Eustace

SVG needs about $40 million for banana rehabilitation: Eustace

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This country would need about $40 million for a comprehensive rehabilitation of its banana sector, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has said.{{more}}

NDP president, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, said at a press conference on October 10 that his party’s figure is based on analysis, after consultations with farmers this year.

Eustace had said the NDP would have released its banana plan after Carnival, in July.

“I had a document prepared, but the cost is very high. I have been looking for ways to reduce the cost,” he told reporters on October 10.

He said income support for farmers is important during rehabilitation.

“You have to discuss in detail not only income support, [but also] whether you can subsidise and to the extent you can subsidise inputs.

“I can tell you that to do a full programme now to rehabilitate 1,000 acres in St Vincent will cost about $40 million. So talking about $5 or $10 million expenditure is not going to do anything or have any meaningful impact on the banana industry.

“It’s an expensive project and the extent to which you give concession to the farmer, the more expensive it becomes for the government,” Eustace said.

He, however, said the beneficial impact for the economy, as a whole, has to be factored in.

“But it is critical to have an income support programme and the programme has to be financed on a grant basis for at least a six-month to seven-month period, until people start to export again,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture is into the ‘plant back’ phase of its programme to revive the banana industry, following the passage of Hurricane Tomas, which destroyed 98 per cent of crops in October 2010 and the Black Sigatoka outbreak, which also dealt the industry another blow last year.

Black Sigatoka spread across the nation as the Ministry of Agriculture, under the leadership of Montgomery Daniel, failed to spray against the leaf spot disease for weeks.

The Ministry’s inaction contributed to no Vincentian bananas being shipped to the international market for eight weeks this year.

The plant back exercise follows on from Operation Cut Back, which saw farmers felling diseased plants, under the leadership of Saboto Caesar, who replaced Daniel as agriculture minister. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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