Last Call for Ba­nanas

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Keith­lin Ca­roo

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.

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