“Big bucks in Bajan bananas”

peter-watson

THE BANANA INDUSTRY could make big bucks for Barbados.

So says St John farmer Peter Watson who told These Fields And Hills bananas could be a more profitable investment than sugar cane.

“The amount of money you can get for an acre of cane in a year, you could quadruple that with an acre of bananas in the same time. You can get 45 tonnes of cane from an acre in good conditions. With that same space, you could put 700 banana plants and 700 bunches multiplied by 40 pounds will give you more money than cane,” said Watson, who added that bananas required less maintenance than cane and were available all year round.

He said that in the past, all the bananas grown were for local consumption and that King Agro-Foods, AC Fruit Growers and the Barbados Agricultural Society were the largest markets for the farmers.

Watson said the farmers sold boxed green bananas which were ripened by commercial entities and sold to supermarkets and other outlets. He revealed that King Agro-Foods paid farmers 66 cents per kilogramme while AC Fruit Growers paid 40 cents per pound.

He also said there were more than ten St John small-scale banana farmers and on average, they produced 12 000 to 15 000 pounds of the fruit weekly.

Watson, who has 30 years’ experience, however said the industry experienced a slump when some plantation owners began importing the fruit from St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica at a cheaper price.

He also said packaging the fruit was the costliest part of the production process for farmers.

Watson said that in 2010/2011, a hike in shipment fees made it cheaper to buy local bananas, but feared plantation owners who recently got into the sector, were getting more recognition than the small farmers, on whose back the industry was developed.

He said figs and plantains were also fruits farmers should cultivate because developed properly they both had the potential to generate $14 million to $15 million per annum. (SB)