Thursday, February 27, 2014

The race to save the Caribbean's banana industry

Desmond Brown in IPS: When Dean, the first storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, lashed Dominica on Aug. 16, it left behind a trail of destruction, claimed the lives of a mother and son, and decimated the island’s vital banana industry.

Seven years later, Dominica’s agricultural sector remains painfully vulnerable to natural disasters and climate variability. Every year, farmers lose a signific
ant portion of their crops and livestock during the six-month hurricane season.

 “Our first major hurricane was Hurricane David in 1979, which ravaged the entire country. Everything went down,” former prime minister Edison James, himself a farmer, told IPS. “Since then we’ve had storms and hurricanes from time to time which have caused damage of varying extent. “Sometimes we have 90 percent crop damage, particularly bananas and avocados and tree crops generally.”

The banana industry is a valuable source of foreign exchange for several Caribbean countries, including Dominica. The island produces approximately 30,000 tonnes of the fruit annually, earning an estimated 55 million dollars. The neighbouring islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which together market their fruit under the Windward Islands Banana brand, earn an average of 68 million dollars.

The banana industry is also the second largest employer on the island after the government, providing work for 6,000 farmers and many others within the sector. Research has found that even slight temperature increases can damage banana production or even eliminate it altogether....

Banana picture by Thamizhpparithi Maari, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 

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