Last Call for Bananas
Almost a week ago, Winfresh, the sales and marketing organisation of Fairtrade bananas in Saint Lucia, produced a 2019 market outlook for Saint Lucian bananas. Suffice it to say, the outlook was dismal. According to the report, the demands for Saint Lucian bananas in the United Kingdom would be reduced from 15,000 cases per week to 6,000 cases per week, following the loss of one customer to Fairtrade organic—which is not produced in Saint Lucia. This came as a surprise to many banana producers who were looking for possible opportunities on the horizon of Brexit and renegotiated trading agreements with the United Kingdom. This market outlook painted a bleak picture for banana producers and it unsurprisingly noted that regional markets were the most attractive options despite competition from Suriname and the Dominican Republic. However, in spite of the market outlook targeting regional markets, even trading between neighbouring islands has proven to be difficult.
Another possibility for banana expansion listed in the report was in general wholesale in the UK. However, Saint Lucian bananas have a poor reputation for low demand and inferior quality; moreover, the pricing of wholesale bananas sells at a much lower price than the Fairtrade brand and would be an unattractive option to producers.
At this point, Saint Lucian bananas need nothing short of a Christmas miracle before 2019. Even a recent study from Duke University highlighted that weaknesses in the Saint Lucian banana industry far exceeded the strengths.
Although it is unfortunate that once again the outlook for bananas is depressing, it does open the door to new opportunities and the chance to find creative solutions. While bananas have been a part of the growth of Saint Lucia’s economy, like any business venture, it is time to adapt to new circumstances and move on towards addressing the gaps. If Saint Lucians were to be honest with themselves, they would admit that the banana industry and its growth was all as a result of preferential treatment and not of a competitive edge or higher quality. Now while we can highlight that preferential treatment aids in accessing and protecting markets for small islands like our own which are incapable of producing on a sizable scale like Latin America, it still makes me question why our producers are still relying on exporting and lining the aisles of English supermarkets with bananas while our own vegetable and fruit aisles are boasting produce from foreign countries. Instead of looking at the Winfresh report as a doomsday call, maybe it really and truly is time to adapt to compete in our own markets. Helen's Daughters is a Saint Lucian non-profit with a special focus on rural women's economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacitybuilding. It was formed in 2016 in a winning proposal for UN Women's Empower Women Champions for Change Program. To learn more about the initiative, visit: Facebook: Helen's Daughters Instagram: helensdaughters.slu Website: helensdaughters.org
According to a recent Winfresh report, sales for Saint Lucian bananas in the United Kingdom will be greatly reduced in 2019.