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St Lucia's banana exports grow in 2006

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The Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU) says notwithstanding a decline of farmers in the field, St. Lucia has recorded a 7.5 per cent increase in production and exports for 2006.

Hilary La Force, head of the government body, charged with breathing life into this critical earner, told CMC that the number of farmers dropped by 300, from 1,800 in 2005 to 1,500 last year.

The rise in the exports to the United Kingdom market has resulted in EC$14 million of increased earnings to farmers.

However, La Force said banana produced was still below past performance and was at its third highest point in 15 years - in 1992 production peaked above 132,000 tonnes and export earnings were US$72 million.

"We still have a long way to go if we wish to attain production levels that the industry can provide," said the BECU head.

Banana remains 41 per cent of the country's exports.

Banana officials predict bright days ahead for the industry, saying a number of farmers appear to be heading back into production following the December election victory of Sir John Compton's United Workers Party.

Former chairman of the St. Lucia Banana Growers Association, Rupert Gajadhar, said that farmers are encouraged by the return of Sir John as head of government.

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