KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – This country has not exported any bananas to the United Kingdom, its main market, in seven weeks, Parliament heard on Monday.
In fact, only 180 cartons of the fruit was exported to the United Kingdom over the past eight weeks, Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar told Parliament in response to a question from Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.
“Over the last eight weeks, we exported to the U.K, through Winfarm, 180 [boxes of bananas],” Caesar said.
He further said that Winfarm had exported 3,176 cartons of the fruit to the region with a further 7,118 exported by itinerant merchants (“traffickers”).
A total of 10,474 cartons of the fruit were exported between the weeks ending Jan. 27 and March 16.
Caesar preceded his detailed breakdown of the export figures by saying that “we are operating a banana industry in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas,” which destroyed 98 per cent of the plants in October 2010.
Agriculture officials, he said, “have [anticipated] the negative impact that Hurricane Tomas would have had on the banana industry … and we are also being affected presently by the two dreaded disease, one being the black leaf spot and the other being moko”.
He, however, said that the diseases and their impact are not “indigenous” to this country.
“It is affecting all the banana producing islands of the sub-region and we are really at this stage because of the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas and the two diseases that we are fighting,” he said of banana exports.
The black sigatoka leaf spot disease ran amok last year as agriculture officials — then under the leadership of now Housing Minister Montgomery Daniel — failed to conduct aerial spraying.