St. Lucia - Agriculture
Since the heyday of the late 1980s, banana production in St. Lucia has faced a number of challenges and crises. The growers' association, the SLBGA, was plagued by inefficiency and corruption. After extensive reorganization, the newly elected SLP government paid off the SLBGA's debts and turned it into a private company, owned and managed by farmers. The new company, the St. Lucia Banana Corporation, was launched in 1998, but has been unable to reverse the decline within the industry. The biggest problem has been the loss of preferential access to the European market following the 1995 WTO ruling. The EU donated US$7.7 million in 1999 to support the reorganization and diversification of the agricultural industry.
Even so, bananas occupy a vital place within the island's economy, not merely in terms of employment but also as an earner of foreign exchange. During the 1980s and 1990s, St. Lucia could have been called a banana republic. In 2000, according to the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company (WIBDECO), St. Lucia exported 70,281 tons of bananas to Europe, earning slightly over US$30 million in export income. Bananas represented approximately 60 percent of the island's export income, but only a minimal amount of foreign exchange was gained when compared to the success of the tourism industry. Other agriculture in St. Lucia included dairy farming, flowers, and fisheries, but export income from these crops were still small.