Published: Tuesday 15 April 1997

The Caribbean's account for three per cent of world trade in bananas, which are cultivated by small farmers and sold to the European Union (eu). However, not all the profits from the trade of Caribbean bananas go to small farmers. Fyffes, a Dublin-based mediator company dominating the uk market, has a finger in most of these banana pies.

Recently, the World Bank attacked the eu for its protectionism. The eu regulates banana import from the Indies, keeping the price tag intact so as not to impoverish the Caribbean farmers and compel them to produce cocaine instead. The latter possibility seems particularly strong, say ob-servers, as the West Indian plantations are situated between the drug-producing countries of Latin America and the us.

But observers feel that the effect of a rapid wind-down of the banana trade on the economy of the West Indies could be "devastating". In fact, if West Indian growers cannot keep their fruit deals with Europe, they would incur serious losses. This would amount to a breach of small farmers' rights. The crop produced by West Indies is expensive because of factors like difficult terrain, unsuitable soil and hurricane-ridden climate, which make cultivation harder than it is on the flat farmlands of Latin America.

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