Saint Lucia
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75% of Banana Industry Severely Damaged by Tropical Storm Bret — PROSPERE

Toppled banana trees

Authorities are concerned about the setbacks and damages recorded in the agricultural sector as Saint Lucia looks to stabilize its major resources from the after-effects of Tropical Storm Bret.

Reports indicate that it was a weather system with a difference, mostly characterized by strong turbulent winds with persistent downpour in some areas causing a level of flooding in some communities.

In the aftermath of it all, the island’s fragile agriculture sector was dealt another telling blow, with the banana industry being the most severely affected.

Minister for Agriculture Alfred Prospere provided an update of the devastation caused to one the country’s major staple food crops and the inherent consequences that will affect the country’s banana farmers. He noted that a preliminary assessment of the damages revealed that at least 75% of the banana industry was “severely damaged” as a result of the storm.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Alfred Prospere
Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Alfred Prospere

“Out of 2, 096 acres of bananas before the storm, we have recorded an amount of 1,589 acres of the banana plantations that were affected as a result of the storm,” Prospere told reporters, on the sidelines of a Cabinet briefing, Monday.

He reported that “the plantain sub-sector also sustained major damage and out of 895 acres on ground before the storm… approximately 678 acres of plantain were destroyed”.

Prospere said the situation is grim taking into consideration “the importance of the banana industry and the availability of markets in the region that were not able to meet in recent months, this has caused a major setback for us.”

The minister reported that with a quota of 1, 500 boxes of bananas per week available for the region , the sector was able to produce only half of that requirement , in range of about 7, 000 to 7, 500 boxes.

“Obviously, the impact that the storm has on the agricultural sector will be a major problem for our banana farmers,” said Prospere. While empathizing with the banana farmers, the minister stated government will provide support to help them alleviate that dilemma “as we understand the importance of agriculture, the importance of food security …and we will do the best we can to provide some level support.”

So far, he explained, the authorities have collected a “preliminary estimate” of the situation and the matter was to be further discussed at a Cabinet meeting to determine “the level of support we will give to the farmers”.

The minister is also concerned about the wastage of fruits on the ground after the storm, included mangoes, avocados, plums, guavas and other produce.

Referring to the fishing sector, Prospere said, most of the island’s fishers were able to safeguard their boats from the ravages of the storm. He said, there was one exception in the Laborie community, where a tree fell on the engine of a boat causing damages.

Other than that, he said, “in the fisheries sector, most of the boats were safe.”

Prospere explained that preliminary estimates also reveal that “41 acres of vegetables were impacted by the storm …and 18 green houses were damaged”.

He stated, “Approximately, a little over 100 vegetable farmers were impacted.”

On a more positive note, Prospere said, after site visits to respective communities  he was pleased to note that in areas , such as Dennery North, Bexon, Cul de Sac, Roseau and especially in the Marc region “it was amazing to see some of the farmers had already began their rehabilitation (works) and they were actually doing their cutting …and replanting , which indicates that we have some really serious farmers and farmers who understand the importance of their livelihoods in a situation like that.”