KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The Office of the Prime Minister announced Thursday afternoon that bananas from this country would continue to be shipped to the United Kingstown.
The information circulated by email by Communication Consultant Elson Crick was sent minutes after Crick said on radio that export of Vincentian bananas to the United Kingdom was “suspended” because of poor quality fruit.
Crick’s comment came shortly after Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace spoke of the issues on another radio station. Crick had said that agriculture officials were working behind the scenes to resolve the issue.
Chief Executive of Winfresh Bernard Cornibert in an email addressed to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, sent at 12:06 p.m. Thursday, said “further to our discussion today”, his company “will continue to receive bananas next week in St Vincent as normal”.
Cornibert further said that payment for the bananas would be “on firm contractual basis, [that is], not on consignment.
The executive further confirmed that the government “undertakes to work with the local banana industry to do everything possible to resolve the fruit quality problems as swiftly as possible.
“The situation will be reviewed in the next few weeks [to] determine if and what further actions are necessary,” according to the email.
Gonsalves, speaking on radio Thursday afternoon, noted that banana boats continued to come to this country even after Hurricane Tomas destroyed 98 per cent of the banana cultivation last year.
“And the banana boat will be coming and they will be receiving bananas and they accepted the bananas on a firm contractual basis, not consignment,” the Prime Minister said.
“But we have to lift our quality and on an on-going basis, we will review this as the weeks go on to see how we are getting on with the quality, how we are improving, what further things the government needs to do, what further things Winfresh needs to do, what further things farmers need to do and so on and so forth,” he said.
“So, rather than people getting on the radio station and trying to cause panic among farmers I just decided that I would come on and tell you the truth.
“Because, when I heard about this, I called Bernie Cornibert and find out what is this story about. He says well, ‘people completely misinterpret an earlier communication’,” according to Gonsalves.
He further noted that a meeting of the directors of Winfresh in St. Lucia on Tuesday, chaired by Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel, did not have as an agenda item “any suspension of any shipment of bananas from any country”.
“So, I just asked the farmers, lift your quality, send good bananas onto the boat and we are gonna be okay and let’s work together,” Gonsalves said.
He said that even as he spoke, agriculture officials, including the minister and Fairtrade representatives were “talking about these issues”.
“So, I just want to put people’s mind at rest, just calm everybody. There are some people apparently, when there’s a difficulty or challenge they just want bad news for St. Vincent and be irresponsible. They must stop that.
“Anyway, I have given you the truth and there it is as always,” Gonsalves said.