KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Why should WINFARM suspend banana exports from this country?
This is the question that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves asked supporters of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) at a rally Sunday night.
His question came as Winfresh, the marketers of Windward Island bananas, suggested that export from St. Vincent be suspended because of the challenges of marketing the poor-quality Vincentian fruit.
Gonsalves was speaking about the public scare that enveloped the nation last Thursday as opposition and government personnel announced on radio, separately, that banana export from this country had been “suspended”.
The government later said that what was interpreted, as a suspension was in reality a proposal of a suspension, a point the Prime Minister emphasised Sunday night, in one of several statements on the issue since Thursday.
“Winfresh, at no time ever said that you must stop sending the bananas? But why WINFARM must stop? They just come out not shipping, why WINFARM should stop?” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves’ “not shipping” referred to last November to June, when bananas were not exported to the United Kingdom because Hurricane Tomas had destroyed 98 per cent of plants.
But Winfresh chief executive officer Bernard Cornibert answered Gonsalves’ question in several emails and letters to Henry Keizer, manager of WINFARM, the main marketer of Vincentian bananas.
Cornibert, in a Nov. 8 letter to Keizer, said marketing of WINFARM bananas has been “severely hindered” by “very severe quality problems” and that the problem has also resulted in “enormous losses” for Winfresh.
The Winfresh executive told I-Witness News on Friday that there must be a more efficient way to solve the problem than telling farmers their bananas will be bought, even though the fruit will be dumped in the United Kingdom because of the poor quality.
“I can show you emails suggesting to them (WINFARM) [to] suspend the shipment but they want to continue … because they’re not bearing the cost. If they were bearing the cost they would have stopped it. It is plain silly; it doesn’t make economic sense,” Cornibert told I-Witness News.