Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says that banana farmers must double output to make the industry more economically sustainable.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Banana farmers here are being encouraged to double their outputs.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in making the point on Thursday, noted that banana exports generated EC$20 million last year but his government has to spend EC$4 million this year to control black sigatoka, the disease that has ravaged banana cultivation here.

“If we only export $20 million worth of bananas but we have to spend $4 million just to control black sigatoka … it is just not sustainable, from an economic standpoint,” said Gonsalves who is also Minister of Finance.

“So one of the issues arising today and for the future, we have to double that export fairly soon,” he told staff of the Ministry of Agriculture.

He said this was “an important agenda item” for the Ministry of Agriculture, banana farmers, extension officers, and Winfarm.

But Gonsalves’ call came as inaction by agriculture officials resulted in 18 per cent of the nation’s banana cultivation being culled because of black sigatoka.

The Biabou, Spring and New Prospect district was the most severely affected, where 26 per cent of banana trees there had to be cut down.

This was followed by Colonaire and Byrea, where 24.5 per cent of plants were affected.

The other districts were affected as follows: the Mesopotamia Valley, 14 per cent; Greiggs, Lauders and Lowmans Windward, 23 per cent; Diamond, Chapmans and Park Hill, 15.3 per cent; Congo Valley, Georgetown and Bower, 20 per cent; Rabacca, 18.1 per cent; South Rivers, 6 per cent and the Leeward District 11.7 per cent.

“We have cut back 405 acres, just about 18 per cent,” Gonsalves said.

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