Regular shipments of bananas from Saint Lucia to the UK have been curtailed significantly, creating unease among banana farmers and leaders in the banana industry about the immediate future of the still vital industry.
Banana shipments have now been reduced to one container of banana boxes per week: some 1,000 boxes. Shipments over the last two years moved from 12 containers to 7 to 5 and now to 1.
Recent information indicates that one exporter has been handling exporting of the fruit to the UK and business arrangements with that exporter to have a regular and increasing supply of bananas to the UK market have not met the expectations of the growers. The latter were promised an increase to 60,000 tonnes of fruit in exports annually by the United Workers Party (UWP) government and prime minister.
According to well-placed sources, there was an emergency meeting between growers and the prime minister, minister for agriculture and industry leaders on Wednesday, September 2, to discuss the urgent and troubling developments.
Of major concern to the farmers and their leaders is the issue of costs to farmers relating to the Maximum Residual Limit (MRL). This relates to the maximum quantity of specific chemicals recommended to be used to get fruits ready for packaging. The penalties for surpassing that limit are borne by farmers. This cost has been on the increase and it is reported that recently fruit has been rejected due to that problem.