CASTRIES, St Lucia, Thursday August 31, 2017 – Banana production is at an all-time high in St Lucia with the country on track to record a near 300 per cent rise in output.
According to Agriculture Minister Ezechiel Joseph, based on current trends, the island could see the production of almost 20,000 tonnes for 2017, which could be an over 300 per cent increase compared to 2016 figures.
“We might reach almost 20,000 tonnes for the year 2017, despite the fact that [for] the first quarter of 2017, we were recovering from Tropical Storm Matthew,” he noted.
Joseph noted that the development comes as the country continues the search for new markets to boost it exports.
Officials have already targeted France, and according to the minister, they are hoping to start the shipment of 3,000 boxes on a weekly basis from January.
“They [French officials] have given a commitment. They are still interested in purchasing our bananas through…our established mechanism – that’s through Winfresh. So we are looking at starting sometime in January,” Joseph said.
He added that the demand for bananas from the Windward Islands remains strong and he was confident farmers could meet that demand.
“When I went to London, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the major supermarkets and they are saying that they want more of the Windward Islands bananas, so there is a market. It’s for farmers now to be able to produce the fruit on a sustainable basis to increase the productivity so they can generate the type of returns,” he said.
Globalization and changes in the European market since the early 90s decimated the fragile banana industry in the Windward Islands.
Exports declined from 132,000 tonnes in 1992, to just 42,000 tonnes in 1995 and have declined further since, with exports sometimes lower than 5,000 tonnes.