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‘Diversify to save Caribbean agriculture’ – Winfresh Chief Executive

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“We can’t hanker back to the good, old days of banana. They’ve gone; they’re not gonna come back.”

The chief executive officer of WINFRESH is appealing to farmers to diversify their crops in order to increase the revenue they earn, and in turn save the agricultural industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the wider region.{{more}}

“We need all the stakeholders – the Government, the farmers, everybody – to buy into this,” explained Bernard Cornibert, in an interview with Tony Regisford of IKTV.

Cornibert pointed out that there is a steadily growing demand for ‘super foods’, such as avocado, soursop and coconut, among others, on the global market.

“The market for those crops is just moving up exponentially… That is where we should be heading… If you can do it and you can do it well and be competitive… do it!” he urged.

Cornibert recounted that with the decline in the banana industry within the Windward Islands, WINFRESH made the executive decision to diversify its product portfolio from just exporting bananas alone.

“We looked at this thing and we said [that] as a business, we are not gonna be able to survive just on bananas,” he admitted. “We are encouraging farmers to diversify as well!”

He added: “If it was just Windward Island bananas, five [or] six years ago, we would have gone out of business.”

Cornibert also explained that not only does WINFRESH source bananas from the Windward Islands, but also the Dominican Republic and Ghana, because its clients’ demands outstrip that which the Windward Islands alone are able to provide.

In addition to this, sourcing bananas from multiple regions reduces the “geographical risk” for WINFRESH’s clients.

“Admittedly, there is a risk buying only from the Caribbean. Just recently, for example, the hurricane that struck Dominica also went to the Dominican Republic.”

With the company currently turning over £50 million annually in banana sales, Cornibert said that the goal is for WINFRESH to turn over in excess of EC$200 million per year in non-banana sales.

“Our long-term objective is for non-bananas to be bigger than bananas in our business… How long is it going to take us to get there? I don’t know. We would have preferred if we can do that within five to 10 years…

“I believe the more we get caught up in this one crop thing… the more we are pushing back progress that we can make on that front.” (JSV)

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