Barbados: Could marijuana growing replace the banana industry?

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is pushing to replace the 'disastrous' banana industry with marijuana growing, as an alternative cash crop.

Speaking at the University of the West Indies (UWI) he argued that 50 years of commercial banana production had left some islands disaster prone, adding that it was high time the region carried out some serious research on ganja as a viable regional commercial product.

“I’m satisfied that the banana industry, despite its important historical contribution to several Caribbean economies, particularly from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, has been the most environmentally degrading commercial agricultural crop since conquest and settlement,” said Gonsalves.

However, he pointed out that globally, especially in the United States and Europe, the marijuana business was emerging from “the shadow of illegality to a more enlightened decriminalisation, particularly in respect of medical marijuana.”

In further highlighting issues of the environment, Gonsalves said: “The extensive spraying of the banana plants, the sleeving of the banana fruit with plastic, and the wanton misuse of pesticides, have polluted streams and rivers, degraded the land and caused unwanted debris, including plastic, to be deposited on certain beaches and in the seas.”

He said that though the region was yet to assess and research on the sum total of this environmental degradation, it could be concluded, “ganja is no way as environmentally destructive as bananas”.

Calling for practical solutions to the environmental nightmare left in the wake of the banana trade, Gonsalves suggested that the Caribbean seek assistance from the countries to which the bananas were sold.

“Europe which purchased our bananas for decades ought, reasonably within the context of the recently proclaimed sustainable development goals at the UN, to partner with us in implementing remedial measures to this environmental challenge.”

Meanwhile, the Vincentian leader called for a collective Caribbean approach to studying the trade and other benefits of marijuana cultivation to the region.

“In the changing global context of marijuana use, Caribbean economists and other relevant professionals, including those in the pharmaceutical industry, ought to be ahead of the curve in conducting relevant research, not rehearsing traversed territory.”


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