Only 45 boxes of what was intended to be a 900- to 1,000-box shipment of plantain made the grade to be exported to the United Kingdom by the Farmers Support Company (FSC) on June 6, I-Witness News was reliably informed.
And Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, the main opposition New Democratic Party’s candidate for North Windward, criticised Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar for the development.
Baptiste told an NDP rally in Saturday that the situation could have been avoided if the ribbon method used in banana cultivation were used.
The Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement on Friday the state-owned FSC redirected the rest of the fruit to the regional market, but paid the farmers the UK price.
“As a result of a large quantity of over grade fruits supplied by the farmers, the company decided to send a sample shipment to the United Kingdom as the over grade fruits were deemed unfit to make the journey to the UK since it will result in significant losses due to ship ripe,” the ministry said in a statement.
But Baptiste, who referred to the Agriculture Minister as “Slowboto Caesar”, said the packaging of over grade fruit was easy to avoid.
“If we follow the banana model, we know that is we are going to grow bananas for export … we have to deflower them, we have to sleeve them, we have to tag them. So when it comes to harvesting, you will know exactly what you are harvesting, especially if we are using the colour ribbons…” he said.
“So, you see, Slowboto Caesar and his whole bunch of other guys do not know anything about what is happening with the agricultural sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And that is why the first thing we must do to bring agriculture back in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to a place of prosperity, we must do what? We must get rid of the Unity Labour Party,” said Baptiste, a first-time candidate.