Campaign group Banana Link says EU plans to abolish quotas and adopt a single tariff on January 1, 2006 spell “economic and social disaster” for suppliers.
The economies of the St Lucia, Jamaica, St Vincent and Dominica rely on bananas for much of their income, with nearly all their 140,000 tonne annual crop sold to the UK, which imported 750,000 tonnes of bananas in the last year.
The abolition of quotas, agreed by the EU at World Trade Organisation talks in 2001, would blow open the valuable EU market for bananas. It could
mean Caribbean farmers, with higher production costs than other countries, will not be able to compete with cheaper bananas from Latin America. A spokeswoman for Banana Link said the new regime could spell doom in the Caribbean and lead to worsening conditions for workers in Latin America. “Prices will fall but standards will fall too. Everyone will lose.”
Banana Link, which wants variable tariffs on bananas that reflect the individual needs of countries they come from, has teamed up with trade union Usdaw to create a Caribbean banana float for the Notting Hill Carnival. Campaigners will distribute postcards and stickers to revellers urging them to tell the government what they think of the new regime.
A DTI spokesman said it was too early to say how the new regime might affect producers. “The EU is about to begin negotiations on how this will operate,” he added, “but it is the EU that is taking the lead.”
Renwick Rose, co-ordinator of the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association, said. “We have the support of our governments, of our industry, of Latin American workers, and now we need the support of the British consumer.”