The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Winfresh wishes to an­nounce some ma­jor changes in the mar­ket­ing ar­range­ments for the sale of ba­nanas in the United King­dom Ba­nana Mar­ket which will im­pact the lo­cal ba­nana in­dus­try.

The main cus­tomers pur­chas­ing ba­nanas from Saint Lu­cia are chang­ing their sup­ply ar­range­ments which will re­sult in the re­duc­tion in the num­ber of ripen­ers/dis­trib­u­tors han­dling their ba­nanas. The ma­jor su­per­mar­kets are now dic­tat­ing where, and in what quan­ti­ties and prod­uct lines or stock keep­ing units (SKUs) the ba­nanas, which they buy, will come from.

In the case of Saint Lu­cia, the vol­ume to be sup­plied by Winfresh will be lim­ited to the vol­ume al­lowed per cus­tomer, which is cur­rently the sub­ject of dis­cus­sion with the lo­cal ba­nana in­dus­try, through the Na­tional Fair­trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Saint Lu­cia (the NFTOSL). The con­se­quence of these new ar­range­ments is that the com­bined vol­ume of ba­nanas from Saint Lu­cia that Winfresh can or will sell to its cus­tomers is se­verely lim­ited. More so, in the case of one cus­tomer, Winfresh will no longer have the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­cept the fruit and to man­age it so as to avoid poor qual­ity ba­nanas reach­ing the su­per­mar­ket shelf. Po­ten­tially, un­less dras­tic steps are taken to re­solve the per­sis­tent poor fruit qual­ity prob­lems, this could re­sult in large qual­ity claims which will be costly for the NFTOSL and the farm­ers.

This means there­fore that all farm­ers sup­ply­ing ba­nanas to any UK cus­tomers must en­sure that the ba­nanas they sup­ply are of the high­est qual­ity and that vir­tu­ally ev­ery sin­gle box is con­sis­tently the same with lit­tle or no vari­a­tions. This is the stan­dard which the mar­ket has set, and it is the ex­pec­ta­tion of the cus­tomers that all pro­duc­ers will con­form to it, if they are to con­tinue sup­ply­ing ba­nanas to them.

Winfresh has worked hard to pro­tect the farmer base in Saint Lu­cia to en­sure that, de­spite those chal­lenges, they con­tinue to re­tain a place in the mar­ket. How­ever, this is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing, if not im­pos­si­ble. Winfresh has re­peat­edly in­formed and ad­vised the NFTOSL of the trends and ex­pec­ta­tions in the mar­ket and the need to adapt and con­form to the re­quire­ments, in or­der to re­main in the mar­ket. In the weeks ahead Winfresh will seek to meet with all sup­ply­ing farm­ers to pro­vide fur­ther ex­pla­na­tions on the new ar­range­ments for 2019. It is im­por­tant to note that world ba­nana prices have been de­clin­ing and there is now stiffer com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket from new and emerg­ing sup­pli­ers, such as Ghana, which are able to sell top qual­ity Fair­trade ba­nanas to the UK at prices which are about US$2.50 per box lower than that which are sup­plied from Saint Lu­cia and even circa US$1.00 lower than those from Latin Amer­ica who were pre­vi­ously the low­est cost sup­pli­ers.

Con­se­quently, many buy­ers in the UK are now mov­ing to­wards sup­pli­ers who quote lower prices and sup­ply con­sis­tent qual­ity, as they strug­gle to re­main com­pet­i­tive and pro­vide cheaper ba­nanas to their cus­tomers.

In the face of these chal­lenges, the farm­ers in Saint Lu­cia are urged to look more closely at their op­er­a­tions to elim­i­nate in­ef­fi­cien­cies, im­prove yield and pro­duc­tiv­ity, and im­prove qual­ity in or­der to re­duce pro­duc­tion cost and meet the stan­dards of the UK mar­ket. This is the only way to en­sure that all their ba­nanas are sold to the UK su­per­mar­ket trade.

New pro­ce­dures and reg­u­la­tions for ba­nana sales through Winfresh will de­mand farm­ers pay closer at­ten­tion to their prac­tices.

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