A significant component of the Agricultural Transformation Project is the implementation of a three-year Banana Rehabilitation Program for which EC$13.8 million has been allocated in the 2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
According to the Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Ezekiel Joseph, there has been positive feedback following discussions between the Government of Saint Lucia and some of the major supermarkets in the United Kingdom who have given their commitment to buy Saint Lucia bananas.
“We are looking at January 2018. Why? Our productions levels are still low,” Minister Joseph said. “We are just recovering from Matthew, so we are not in a position now to ship to France. So based on our project that we are going to start after budget, and the support which we will be giving to our farmers, we shall see an increase in production which will allow us to capitalize on the opportunities that the French market provides.
You shall be seeing us moving from the dismal 8000/10,000 tons a year to at least 30,000/40,000 tons, and by year three of the project, 50,000 to 60,000 tons. That is our target. So there are opportunities to rescue and market our bananas.”
Important to the success of the Banana Rehabilitation Program is the management of the Black Sigatoka leaf spot disease.
“Managing the disease alone, you will not realize an increase in production. You must have a holistic approach—soil conditions, nutritional conditions; all these are important to impact on productivity and production; and that is why the management of Black Sigatoka will be part and parcel of that new project.”
During this fiscal year, the Ministry of Agriculture will be undertaking several other projects. Among them, the completion of the Agro Processing Facility to which EC$370,000 have been allocated, the rehabilitation of some 45 farm roads, and the implementation of policies to encourage livestock farmers back into production.