KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel must take blame for his ministry’s mismanagement of the black sigatoka disease Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said Monday.
“… in fact, you (Daniel) are poor in your performance in relation to what happened … to bananas and you must take the blame for what you did wrong,” Eustace said on Monday.
Daniel last week took “responsibility” but not “blame” for his staff’s failure for four months to buy chemical to spray fruits even as the disease ravaged the industry.
But Eustace said that the Minister “did not do a good job” in ensuring that bananas were sprayed to prevent the further spread of the disease.
“Whether you want to take the blame or not, you are the Minister of Agriculture. And, whether some civil servant, as you claim, was holding back documents, then you get new documents made and get the thing done as quickly as possible,” said Eustace, a former prime minister and minister of finance.
“You are responsible for the difficulties that the farmers now face with this disease and the loss of income that they face in this country,” he further said of the minister.
Eustace said that because of the ministry’s inaction, farmers would have to cut down their banana plants again.
“They are still cutting back bananas and they will continue to do so for some time. I have bananas; I have to cut again,” Eustace further said.
He said that he has been paying particular attention to the situation because he realised that “what has happened could only lead us to further trouble.
“You don’t tell me that for six, eight months you can’t get your act together to get spray oil here. Something is wrong and then you turn around and blame civil servants?” Eustace said.
Daniel told Parliament last week that his staff did not send documents to the Ministry of Finance as
they said they had done.
Further, as the ministry prepared to spray bananas after months of delay, the Minister was informed that a $12,000 bill for the aircraft sent since last November was not paid.
“But you, as the minister, you gave a commitment … that six spraying will be done. You have not lived up to that commitment, Mr. Daniel. And don’t be surprised when people say you must go because you deserve to go,” Eustace said.
Eustace said that this country has been exporting bananas for 54 years and noted its contribution to raising standard of living here.
“ … despite all the competition from abroad … and the new arrangements, we have to become more competitive. But we can’t come with a lax Ministry of Agriculture that did not do its work,” Eustace further said.