Minister Promises Help After Beryl Devastates Banana Farms

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

Banana farmers have appealed for government support after severe winds associated with the passage of Category Four Hurricane Beryl blasted through their farms, snapping and uprooting banana trees.

And Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere has promised to provide the affected farmers with as much support as possible.

Although one farmer in the Mabouya Valley estimated storm damage to banana and plantain crops to be at least two million dollars, Prospere told reporters it was too early to make an assessment.

Prospere, who has been visiting affected regions, explained that bananas and plantains are more susceptible to the impact of strong winds than other crops like vegetables which sustained minimal storm damage.

He said the damage to banana and plantain crops, especially in the valley, appeared much worse than he had witnessed in the South of Saint Lucia.

Nevertheless, the Minister declared that the damage was nowhere near what farmers experienced  when Tropical Storm Bret decimated over seventy-five percent of Saint Lucia’s banana and plantain crops on June 22 last year.

To make the situation worse, Bret struck as farmers struggled to grow enough bananas to meet international demand.

According to the Agriculture Minister, farmers get demotivated when weather systems impact their crops.

However, he was happy to note that some growers are already engaging in rehabilitation.

“I want to encourage them to not give up. It’s a natural disaster. We are located within a hurricane belt and those scenarios will surface,” Prospere stated.

He recalled that the government had been doing its best to assist the farmers with banana boxes and fertilizers.

Regarding the damage from Hurricane Beryl to banana and plantain crops, the Minister said the situation could have been worse.

He declared that the banana industry, with about 400 to 500 farmers, is very important to Saint Lucia, but when natural disasters strike, some farmers become demotivated and think of quitting.

In this year’s budget, the government allocated $600,000 to begin the process of crop insurance.

“We have been in discussion with three insurance companies but the three options that they gave us, it does not really offer the farmer enough. So, we are still negotiating how we can get a better premium, a better level of compensation for the farmer,” Prospere disclosed.

He hoped the other Caribbean countries would join the insurance initiative but revealed that only Saint Lucia, Antigua, and Guyana had shown significant interest.