Taiwan rescues St Lucia banana industry

Taiwan Ambassador Peter Chia-yen Chen

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.”

 “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.”

Minister for agriculture Alfred Prospere

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.

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.

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.