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Taiwan rescues St Lucia banana industry

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES St Lucia – Saint Lucia’s once-thriving banana industry – now a fraction of its capacity, struggling to maintain production, quality standards and revenue inflows, continues to receive much needed technical and financial support from Taiwan’s Technical Mission.

Taiwan recently budgeted EC$3.2 million to Saint Lucia for the fiscal year 2021/2022, with EC$500,000 coming from the Banana Productivity Improvement Project (BPIP) revolving fund.

Ambassador of Taiwan to Saint Lucia, His Excellency, Peter Chia-yen Chen, said Taiwan will continue to provide assistance to Saint Lucia’s agriculture industry as they work to strengthen their bilateral relationship.

“We continue to support the Banana Productivity Improvement Project and Taiwan is committed to providing reliable assistance and incorporating new innovative technologies to Saint Lucia’s Agricultural Industry,” said, ambassador Chia-yen Chen.

Minister for agriculture, fisheries, rural development and food security, Alfred Prospere, said: “With the severe and almost complete destruction of our banana fields, this support will go towards rehabilitation of fields, improving drainage, improving farm irrigation, farmer certification and training, pest and disease control, and lessening the dependence on agrochemicals, while eliminating over-reliance on one market and building resilience in the industry.”

Minister Prospere, also expressed gratitude on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia to the government of Taiwan for their significant contribution they have made to the agricultural sector and the country’s overall economic growth, defined a press release from the ministry of agriculture, “the Banana Productivity Improvement Project (BPIP) has been working to increase farmer productivity and revitalize the banana industry in Saint Lucia with a view of restoring farmer confidence,” adding, “although the BPIP is set to continue within the ministry until March 2022, minister Prospere, reaffirms that the Saint Lucian government, in collaboration with the Taiwanese government, will continue to assist in improving Saint Lucia’s food security and the well-being of Saint Lucian farmers.”

Saint Lucia is facing a massive banana shortage

“Anyone hoping to prepare a dish using bananas must wait it out for some more months as the island continues to deal with a major shortage of the crop. In this report, the agriculture minister paints a picture of the true scope of that reality.” [September 15, 2021, Credit: Choice News Now Prime]

Here’s Nelcia Charlemagne, report.

Tai-Chiao No.2’ Cavendish banana variety

Saint Lucia was struck by hurricane Elsa on July 2nd, 2021, and since the event, more than 60 percent of the banana plants were snapped or toppled, causing the banana industry to be severely impaired.

The Taiwan Technical Mission and the Banana Productivity Improvement Project previously introduced a Taiwanese banana variety ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ to assist banana farmers to reduce their loss during hurricanes.

Taiwanese banana variety ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ is a Cavendish banana variety with a shorter height and thicker stem. According to the results from the six trial plots around the island, ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ is 2 ft. shorter than the common variety ‘Valery’, which makes it more resistant to high winds.

After hurricane Elsa, the two varieties of banana plants in the trial plots were both damaged, but there was a significant difference between them.

The ‘Valery’ had a 42 percent rate of snapped or toppled trees, while the ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ had only 18 percent, thus, 20 percent less damage was found in ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’.

Seven Crops Project

Meanwhile, Taiwan Technical Mission through the Seven Crops Project, with the department of agriculture completed a watermelon trial and sampling in Malgretoute, Micoud, as part of an experiment for the introduction of new watermelon types in Saint Lucia, inclusive of eight varieties of watermelons, seven varieties of cantaloupes and honeydew planted in June of this year.

The coordinator of the Seven Crops Project, Adline Eudovic, explained that the watermelon trial also seeks to curb shortcomings in the production and marketing chain such as the shelf life and quality of watermelons.

“This trial is not done in isolation of issues identified. We are able to have a wider base of selection to choose from, knowing the characteristics of these crops, and we will see what works and what doesn’t. When it is replicated on other farms, we will have an improved understanding of which ones to go ahead with to address the issues identified by the marketplace,” noted Eudovic.

While the department of agriculture (Saint Lucia) maintains its commitment to improving the agriculture sector and work towards reducing the food import bill; Taiwan’s Technical Mission has throughout the years demonstrated its resolve to improve the island agriculture sector and the banana industry, research and development ensuring sustainable outputs and marketable returns.

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