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Beware the love of the Love Vine

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Editor: The Unity Labour Party have on display at their headquarters a bold sign which declares “Labour Loves You,” but when one considers the realities of the last 15 years, it is reasonable to ask “who is, or who are the you being addressed and when did this loving begin?”

Of course, it cannot be the farmers, for certainly the banana farmers will remember that in the electioneering campaign of 2000-2001 the ULP promised that they were going to revitalize the banana industry.{{more}} It was generally felt then, that the Mitchell government had not been doing enough to secure the industry and this was reflected in the serious deterioration of the vital “feeder roads” in the state. The neglect was certainly widespread and the promises of the ULP ignited the lamp of hope for the relief to the farmers.

There was even a declaration from an individual claiming to be an influential player in Britain, who assured the listeners that as soon as the ULP was installed as the government in SVG, the banana trade would be secure. The gentleman spoke on the ULP platform.

To date, we have not seen any improvement in the banana industry. While there were a few banana consultations during the first term of the ULP in government, they ultimately have proved to be shallow unscientific cosmetic exercises, which were not grounded in a serious desire to secure the industry. The steady decline of the economic strength and well-being of the farming community is testimony to that and the growing popular perception now is that Dr Gonsalves never had the sincere desire to fortify the industry and the mischief was crystallized around the issue of the “BLACK SIGATOKA” fiasco.

The shoddiness in the management of those matters has been well documented. One of the highlights of it is that Dr Gonsalves and his men refused to act on a report in 2009 that the dreaded disease was affecting us, and despite the fact that the Government had undertaken the responsibility for pests and disease control, it took them two years to stir themselves to act. Of course, by then it was too late for effective containment. That is the main reason for the death of the banana trade today.

St Lucia and Dominica are still earning significant incomes from their banana trade today.

Barefaced blame for the neglect in the provision of the resources for addressing the measures to control Black Sigatoka in SVG was placed on some clerk in the Ministry of Agriculture, but the farmers have not been fooled; they know the truth.

Today, the perception is that the crippling of the banana industry was arranged to thwart the seeming independent inclinations of the farming community. Reluctantly, I am forced to agree, especially so when I look at the way the Banana Growers’ Association has been crippled, thus weakening the farmers who are enjoying no benefit from the assets worth millions of dollars and the acquisition of which they had contributed to over several decades.

I would say also, that this crippling of our agriculture industry in general has been actively supported by Sir Dwight Venner, the governor of the ECCB, to such an extent that his continued presence/position as an important decision maker in our sub-region is inimical to the interests and welfare of the agricultural community of SVG.

The omission of agriculture from the much talked about Eight Point Stabilization and Growth Plan of 2008- 2009, is ample testimony of this. From all indications, the plan has clearly not produced the projected fruit. There was no growth in the areas targeted with substantial inputs of financing. We are still awaiting a report on a comprehensive evaluation of that plan. I consider it necessary, as that is how we can better determine the way forward.

The farmers of this land hardly need to be reminded how they have fared and feared under the authority of this administration. Yet, I am reminding them that the plants that fall prey to the embraces of the treacherous love vine will not be able to bear fruit.

Leroy Providence

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