Dominica: Banana woes
ROSEAU, Dominica, May 10, CMC – Dominica has launched a scathing attack on countries and companies seeking to destroy the local banana industry as the European Union launched an EC$54 million (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) banana support package to help the island adjust to the new trading arrangements for bananas.
“They are the ones who challenge us at the WTO (World Trade Organization) conscious of the ramifications. They are the ones who manufacture the inputs and sell them to us at exorbitant and prohibitive prices.
“Simply put, dear friends, we can’t buy so get out. These countries only see the world, profitably and are blinded towards the plight of their sister small and vulnerable states, members of the same multi-lateral organisation, the WTO”.
Walter said there is an “exigent need for a global conscience to gain in the improvement of livelihoods and to foster prosperity to all citizens of this world. There must be etched somewhere within these spaghetti whole of trade rules and disciplines, these three operative words, sensitivity, empathy and vulnerability.
“We have to be cognizant of the destitute in Africa and other countries who live on less than one dollar. Here in Dominica, on this day we extend our most fervent gratitude to the EU for the generous assistance given to the agricultural sector over the 10-year period”.
Under the EU agreement, known as the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM), the funding will address the underlying weaknesses in the industry relating to low productivity and commercial competitiveness.
It will be executed by strengthening technological systems, implementation of quality standards, upgrading the physical infrastructure and developing the country’s agricultural information systems.
Some of the specifics of the BAM are improving agro-processing techniques, establishment of a land bank, conducting an agricultural census, creating market linkages, improving genetic material, upgrading access roads and on-farm irrigation, and providing insurance initiatives to mitigate against natural disasters.
“The Banana Accompanying Measures is part of EU support to assist banana exporters in Dominica and the other Windward Islands following erosion of the preferential conditions they once enjoyed.
The package takes into account each country’s specific situation as it focuses on economic diversification, while also addressing broader social, economic and environmental issues,” said Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Mikael Barfod.
In his address, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit noted that this investment means that it can no longer be business as usual.
“We have to therefore do it right and we have to do so against the backdrop of an ageing farmer population, adverse weather pattern and the loss of preferential treatment which we once enjoyed in the EU market,” he said.
“BAM will also provide the necessary financing for building, rehabilitating and upgrading feeder roads across the country,” Skerrit said, warning however that the best of plans and availability of financial resources would not by itself bring about the transformation of the sector.
“Our attitude to work, the productivity of our labour and our commitment to adhere to the best practices in production, harvesting and packaging, all have to be transformed if we are to achieve the objectives of the BAM,” he added.