The Eastern Caribbean is hoping to ward off another disease and protect the vital banana industry. The region has been put on notice by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation that the fungal Panama disease could wipe out the sector. It poses the biggest threat to the region's bananas since the Black sigatoka disease in 1991.
Saint Lucia's agriculture minister says for the small islands of the Caribbean, the best response includes collaboration and the adoption of preemptive measures.
“This is not a threat only that Saint Lucia is concerned about, so therefore at the regional level, the governments, through the ministries of agriculture, are discussing, first of all to see how best we keep this disease out of our islands,” said Moses Jn Baptiste.
Bananas are Saint Lucia’s biggest export crop, accounting for one-fifth of all export earnings.
Farmers are hoping that the officials will do whatever is needed to stave off the disease and protect the livelihoods of those who are trying to boost production figures and food security in the region.
Agricultural produce vendors like Mary Julien say the spread of the disease could hurt traders and are calling for more support for farmers.
“The government has to help the farmers more. When I watch it, they are more into tourism. They need to help the farmers more, to help them to produce. There are some farmers who cannot afford to buy some of the chemicals,” she said.
Those who earn their living in agriculture are hoping that the region will adopt an action plan to deal with this issue which they say is a potential threat to both export income and internal food security.