‘Banana on death row!’ – Opposition leader

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace (File photo by Oris Robinson).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace believes that the local banana industry –ravaged by natural disasters and diseases over the past three years — is on “death row”.

He said during one of his weekly radio appearance earlier this month that management of the sector should be returned to farmers.

He called for a repeal of the legislation that grants certain responsibilities to the sector to Cabinet.

“I know many people are afraid to speak out for many reasons. But the reality is that the industry is on death row and we cannot let it continue like that,” said Eustace, a banana farmer and economist.

“The chances of economic recovery hinges not only on the financial situation of the country but what is done about agriculture and particularly the banana industry as well as fisheries and the others.

“… Something positive has to be done rapidly if during this year we are to have meaningful export to the U.K. while we work on some of the other commodities,” he said.

This country this month shipped 1,935 boxes of bananas to the United Kingdom — in the first of three trail batches, after eight weeks without any export.

Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar’s said this month that the industry can return to significant levels of production by yearend.

“We cannot continue on that basis and I believe that the solution in that matter lies in repealing that law we now have on bananas.”

Eustace said that there are “good and competent” farmers who can take responsibility for the management of the industry, including the management institution and its board.

“And I think the whole thing needs to be looked at and put back in a state, which allows farmer-control of the industry.

“They are the people who feel it. It is all well to have a Cabinet go and make decisions. In the end, the people who feel it are the farmers and that spills off on the rest of us because it spills off on the rest of the economy.”

He said more farmers should press for the repeal of the current legislation.

“I don’t believe that the legislation is the most suitable and it is not working at the present time,” Eustace said.

He added: “When it is not working, we must change it. And I believe any such change … has to put the farmers at the front of the industry.

“They are the people who feel it. They are the ones taking the risks. They are the one spending their resources. They are the ones working and therefore they are the ones who must benefits and therefore take control over their lives. That is what it amounts to.”

Eustace said that the sector is critical to agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and further stated that “something has to be done in the shortest possible time to put the industry back on its footing”.

He noted that the sector has been affected by black sigatoka since 2009.

“The question is, how far have we gone and what are doing about it,” he said as he asked about the frequency of spraying against the disease.

The government has launched “Operation Cut Back” which has felled 275 acres of abandoned fields, thereby reducing the level of infestation to 4, with zero representing total elimination of the disease — something experts say is almost impossible.

“I believe that the diversification of our agriculture should be done around bananas because there is a lot of infrastructure around bananas which other crops can benefit from and we have been saying this over and over again as a party.”

He said that the British supermarkets that buy Windward Island bananas are willing to purchase other agricultural commodities and through the joint-ventured investments in the U.K. can provide shipping, quality staff, port facilities, and ripening rooms.

“And I am saying a lot of that hinges on how fast we can bring back the banana industry,” he said.

Read also: ‘Banana is not dead!’ – Agriculture Minister

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5 thoughts on “‘Banana on death row!’ – Opposition leader

  1. Banana is on death row right besides the NDP party…they can be burried together

    Posted by Arthur | April 30, 2012, 07:04
    • It’s not the NDP you have to worry about, it’s St Vincent. We have a government who is killing the country and people who support them. Half of the people who support the ULP don’t understand anything about good governance, all they want to do is shout “we nar tun back” like it’s a party house in high school. The next generation is going to deal with the mess that the government created now. St Vincent is Billions in the Red. Billions, Billions,Billions,Billions,Billions,Billions. Do you understand what Billions mean. Sometimes i am just amazed at how foolish some Vincentians can be.

      Posted by blane | April 30, 2012, 19:17
  2. no arthur ulp is the one on death row,losing ncb is like losing the economic heart,right now they’re on life support using NIS,but they were brain dead long time

    Posted by Joe | April 30, 2012, 12:25
  3. SILLY ARTHUR, banana is dead because of the ULP and you don’t care a damn.

    The banana is dead, and its dead because of ULP failure to deal with the disease early and properly. It will remain dead because no one in SVG currently knows how to deal with the disease. Money is being wasted by telling farmers to cut back. I have recently done a tour and can tell you that farmers are leaving the old trees and leaves that they cut, laying on the ground, this will re-contaminate the new growth, even one contaminated leaf creates a risk.

    The disease of Black Sigatoka is spread by birds, insects and the wind. We cannot kill all the birds, we cannot kill all the insects, nor do we want to, but we can remove old contaminated growth from the fields. The spoors of this deadly fungal infection [ Black Sigatoka, Mycosphaerella fijiensis] can travel for miles on the wind.
    Its not just Bananas that are affected by the disease, a number of other plants are also affected. Heliconia [flowering plant] which is grown in over 25% of all gardens on the island is also prone to the disease, and Ravenala madagascariensis, commonly known as Traveller’s Palm.
    I also suspect that coconut trees are affected, because I have noticed the sudden difference in fond color since the start of the outbreak.. That will need to be urgently investigated. Of course urgency is something that this government know nothing about.

    Unless all banana trees and certain other plants that are affected are all treated at the same time the re-contamination will continue its cycle.

    Look at it like this, you would not put a man who has a highly contagious disease in a hospital ward bed next to a man with a broken leg. You wouldn’t because the man with the broken leg would become infected with the highly contagious disease The man with the highly contagious disease would be isolated and the disease contained.

    All trees on the island need to be cut down at the same time, all that is cut down needs to be destroyed by burying or burning, every last leaf. Why cut them all down at the same time? Because contaminated trees still growing on neighboring land, or even several miles away, will re-contaminate the new growth.

    Another way of dealing with the destruction of contaminated plants if diseased plants cannot be removed from the plot and burnt, they should be cut up and piled up. Then tied down securely with black polythene sheeting., staked at the edges. This will prevent ascospores discharging effectively from the leaves in the pile. This should create enough heat whilst rotting takes place to destroy the spores.

    All wild trees, trees in private gardens, small non-plantation growers trees, need to be cut down and removed. All this needs to be done at the same time as those on the farms.

    This is a massive undertaking, I am sure its too big for a bankrupt government, the farmers will also need financial support for up to two years.

    Forget about trying to control the disease, its expensive and doesn’t work.

    Once new growth is underway Black Sigatoka can be chemically controlled on plantations, but the cost is substantial. Up to 36 spray cycles per year may be required for plantations growing dessert bananas for export and up to 19 cycles for commercial plantings of plantain.
    Timorex Gold is the only known chemical that can eradicate all stages of the spores, ultra expensive.

    I am told that the government are aware that the disease was introduced into the country by a windward coast flower grower, nurseryman flower exporter, who imported a certain type of Heliconia which was infected.


    There is no end of advice on the internet, most of it will work only on a temporary basis.

    There is a need to license banana growers and ban the growing of bananas without a Min of Ag., license. Total control is required.

    A ban should be put in place to stop the import of Musa [banana] plants and all other plants that can be affected by the disease. In fact it may be a good idea to ban all live plants and cut flowers for the time being.

    If this was Swine Fever or Foot and Mouth disease, a ban would be in place already, and stringent farm hygiene regulations applied.

    Unfortunately the Ministry of Agriculture is pretty inefficient, unable and unwilling to take advice.

    Posted by Peter | April 30, 2012, 15:56
  4. I am also told that the flowering plant Strelitzia, Crane Flower or Bird of Paradise, is also prone to Sigatoka.

    Posted by Peter | April 30, 2012, 23:34


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