bananaA major paradigm shift in the way farmers do business at it relates to bananas may be the solution to increasing Dominica’s banana productivity and exports.

That’s the suggestion coming out of a recent meeting called by the Ministry of Agriculture involving key stakeholders in the industry.

The meeting called on May 28th, 2013, was attended by representatives of WINFRESH, the company responsible for marketing Dominica’s bananas, the Dominica Agricultural Producers and Exporters Limited (DAPEX) and the Dominica National Fair Trade Organisation (DNFTO).

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Eisenhower Douglas, who chaired the high level meeting, said there is consensus that a more scientific approach is needed to sustain the island’s banana industry.

“We have much more competition now and the core message from WINFRESH is that at the production level, the changes that need to take place to match that at the market level are slow to take place.  We need to be much more scientific in production at the national level,” stated Douglas.

“We need to treat agriculture more like a business, as it relates to input, output, productivity, and yield per acre. We have a problem with the average age of farmers, we need to get more young energetic people in the industry,” Douglas said.

He continued, “We have a number of challenges that we have to concern ourselves with and seek to address and we want to do it in collaboration with DAPEX and WINFRESH because they have an important role to play”.

The Permanent Secretary added that in recent years, Dominica has experienced a significant decline in banana exports and the general view is that the country can do much better.

“WINFRESH still believe that Dominica can do much better in the area of bananas. Our peak year of banana exports was 1988, where we earned over a hundred million dollars in bananas. Now here we are in 2013, several years later, our banana exports is less than 10% of what it was at the peak” he explained.

Douglas said while there has been some fluctuations in the volume of exports over the years, the general trend in banana exports have been on the decline.

“WINFRESH believe we can do much better in banana exports,” he stated.

Douglas pointed to the continued call for DAPEX and the National Fairtrade Organization to work collaboratively in the interest of the industry.

“We also want to see DAPEX and FAIRTRADE work much more harmoniously together. There are certain institutional arrangements that have predisposed them to be at loggerheads in the past and we believe the time has come to bury the hatchet and work more collectively in the public interest,” he suggested.

The Government of Dominica recently launched the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) where EC$54 million from the European Union (EU) was injected into the island’s agriculture sector as a means of boosting that sector.

The (BAM) is a series of measures aimed at “strengthening the viability of agriculture and increasing its productivity and competitiveness”.