Farmers criticise exporting company

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21 july 2011, Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Windward Islands Farmers’ Association (WINFA) expresses its alarm at the difficulties being faced by Fairtrade banana farmers in the Windward Islands in the export of their bananas to the United Kingdom through the sole marketing agent, WINFRESH (formerly WIBDECO).

"These farmers, whose production had been wiped out by the devastation of hurricane Tomas in October last year, following a debilitating drought earlier that year, resulting in a loss of income for eight months, have made huge sacrifices, with the support of the Governments of these islands to restore production. This was not only of personal benefit to farmers, for, given the economic hardships being experienced by the entire Caribbean as a result of the global crisis, our islands badly need every bit of hard currency such as those generated by Fairtrade banana sales.

It must also be borne in mind that the governments of the Windward Islands have wisely invested scarce resources in the banana recovery efforts. However, now that exports to the UK have resumed, the marketing company WINFRESH, which enjoys a state-sponsored monopoly on extra-regional banana exports, and which had been pressing farmers to resume production, is creating all sorts of difficulties for farmers in exporting Fairtrade bananas, pinning the blame on British supermarkets. This is happening at a time when the regional market itself has become saturated.

The result of all this is that banana farmers in the Windward Islands are facing huge losses, right after their huge sacrifices to rehabilitate the industry. Many are contemplating leaving the industry entirely but there are few alternatives currently available since these same farmers also have difficulties in the marketing of non-banana produce such as plantains and root crops.

WINFA is therefore calling on the Governments of the Windward Islands, as shareholders in WINFRESH, to intervene in the matter on behalf of the banana farmers of the region and to insist that WINFRESH ceases its dictatorial, anti-farmer actions which are hurting not only farmers, but the economies and people of the Windward Islands."

Source: WINFA Press release, 21st July