9:20 AM St Lucia – The government of St Lucia agreed to increase its shareholding in the regional banana exports company Wifresh and acquire 177 acres of prime agriculture land in Dennery Valley.
The government of Saint Lucia agreed to increase its shareholding in the region export company Winfresh.
The government will acquire 20% shares in the company controlled by the St. Lucia Banana Corporation which is in voluntary liquidation and raise it to 32.5%.
The government completed the acquisition in March with the transfer of EC$26.266 million or US$9.7 million to the SLBC account and will place its new holding in St Lucia Agriculture Holding Company.
Banana production and exports have come under severe pressure since the expiry of preferential access to the European markets. The European Union donated $7.7 million in 1999 as a part of the industry settlement but exports since then have not recovered.
At the peak on the industry in 2000, St Lucia banana exports amounted to US$30 million and nearly 60% of its total exports.
The government hopes that the new investment and focus will help the company to diversify away from banana to other activities including dairy farming, flowers and fisheries.
Agriculture Minister Ezekiel Joseph said that the government is also looking forward to acquire a control of 177 acres of farming land in Dennery Valley.