Dominica

DOMINICA and our GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT
Dominica and bananas - an overview
   Though the terrain is often steep, Dominica has fertile soil, abundant rainfall and a tropical climate excellent for growing fruit and other agricultural produce. There have been periods in Dominica's history when it has been the breadbasket of the region. A wide diversity of crops thrived. At one time Roses were in Dominica in a big way, with lime plantations for their cordial and marmalades.

   The banana is a very versatile fruit, easy to peel and eat, very nutritious, rich in potassium and the B vitamins. It is good for concentration, stress, heartburn, morning sickness and is believed to improve our body's resistance to many illnesses, prostate cancer being one of them. Even the inside of the skin is used to treat warts and insect bites. It is a crop which is not seasonal, therefore supplies are fairly constant throughout the year. It does not require replanting, for new plant suckers grow out from the root of the adult plant, which is then chopped once it has produced its one bunch of matured fruit. The new plant takes between 9 and 18 months to mature, depending on the precipitation, quality of soil and use of fertilizers.

   In the 1950's, whilst under British rule, Brits at home were becoming increasingly partial to bananas and Dominica was identified as one of several ideal locations for banana production. Prices were good and many farmers were lured into abandoning their other crops in favour of growing bananas. Soon the landscape became dominated by this one crop. For a period farmers prospered handsomely, but it was not long before two big American farm barons, Dole and Chiquita, also increased their dominance of the banana business  in a big way. They concentrated more on the tropical Latino countries of South and Central America, which have vast areas of flat fertile soil, undervalued currencies and an abundance of cheap labour. Soon the price of bananas began to fall and these two giants came to monopolize and control the world market in bananas. Ever ambitious to increase their market share, they were unconcerned about their impact on small nations like ours with a high dependency on this one crop.

   The four tiny Windward Island nations (Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent and The Grenadines) together produce less than 2% of the world's bananas, yet this did not stop the big boys from trying to wreck our economies. Having made massive contributions to both American political parties, the payback came when the U.S. Government lent on the WTO (World Trade Organization), which in turn lent on the EU (European Union), to try and prevent the UK giving our islands preferential status with regards the supply of bananas. 'Preferential Status' did not mean that our bananas were being subsidized in any way, merely that they were allowed access to the British market even though sold at a higher price than the Central American bananas. When one enters the fruit section of a typical UK supermarket, there may be one area selling bananas at 39p per lb, whist nearby are Windward Isles or Fairtrade bananas on sale at a higher price. It is the consumer who makes the choice and many consumers will tell you that they prefer the Windward Isles bananas and are willing to pay more for them.

   One of the Central American countries where the American farm giants grow their bananas is Honduras. In June 2009 the democratically elected leader of Honduras, Manuel Zeleya, was deposed in a coup even though he had less than a year left to serve in office. This attracted only scant coverage in the international media and few people appreciated the significance or understood the implications until John Perkins (author of New York Times best seller "Confessions of an Economic Hitman") provided an analytical insight into the situation in an August 2009 newsletter (see click here for newsleter). It has much to do with the banana market.

   This is politics way beyond our sphere of influence and is very disturbing. Meanwhile, a once prosperous banana industry in Dominica has been in a continued state of decline since its peak year, 1988, when 72,000 tons were produced on 15,000 acres of cultivation by 7,000 growers. Today this figure has dwindled to around 12,000 tons and the income received by the farmers barely covers their costs. When farmers have been growing the same crop for several decades, however, they almost forget the wide range of crops they used to grow and are not easily persuaded to change track and to diversify.

   Dame Eugenia Charles, Dominica's Prime Minister from 1980 to 1995, recognized the trend in the early 90's and her public addresses were
often aimed at persuading Dominica's banana farmers to diversify. A few responded but the majority doggedly persevered or else gave up altogether. The next Prime Minister - Edison James, himself a banana farmer and one time manager of the DBMC (Dominica Banana Marketing Corporation), did more to encourage rather than to dissuade the banana farmers, though this did little to check the market's continued contraction. A few years ago the DBMC, which had continued to spend the way it always had but with dwindling income, found itself in serious debt and had to be dissolved as a result. It's successor, the DBPL (Dominica Banana Producers Limited) recently found itself competing with another organization - WIBDECO (Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company Limited) and the two are now frequently at loggerheads with each other. Meanwhile, it appears that America's banana giants have got their way in the end. In October 2009 it was announced that The Windward Islands' guaranteed fixed share of the European banana market is being abolished!

Dominica's The Chronical weekly newspaper - October 30, 2009 headline
diminishing returns for DBPL (Oct 30, 2009)


   This could be the final nail in the coffin
for many of Dominica's banana farmers, but in the long term it may prove to be a blessing in disguise. The variety of banana grown in Dominica for export (there are over 160 varieties of banana grown world-wide) tends to grow too tall with insufficient root support for our climate and has a tendency to keel over under the weight of its own fruit if not supported. Each bunch of fruit must be enclosed in blue cellophane to aid the ripening process and prevent our local birds from pecking it once ripe. Chemical fertilizers are often used to speed up growth, fungicides are used to control a disease called 'leaf spot' and a dangerous herbicide, Gramoxone (banned in many countries for causing cancer), is nevertheless still peddled to developing nations like ours and is used routinely by many Dominican farmers to clear the land before planting. These substances take their toll on the environment and on the health of farm workers. There are, however, many fruit crops which will grow easily in Dominica without requiring any of these harmful agro chemicals - most citrus fruit, avocado pear, nutmeg, pawpaw, soursop, pineapple, guava, carambola, passion fruit are just a few examples. The banana boats still sail to the UK every fortnight from Dominica. If the banana quota remains unfulfilled, what space remains could just as easily be utilized with other types of locally grown fruit or veg. All the better if they are grown organically, appealing to the increasingly raised awareness of the British consumer.
Dominica and our Global Environment - home page
An Introduction to Dominica
corporations rule the world
The Earth - it's place in the solar system, our gallaxy and the universe
we are cooking our planet!
invasions, oil and an assault on our freedoms
ripe bananas
ripe bananas

how bananas grow

banana bunch growing

bananas growing in Dominica
banana plantation in Dominica

the big boys leave nothing to chance
fun picture contest
bananalink on Dole

bananaquit
these birds just love bananas

young & fallen bananas
young and fallen banana plants

alternatives???
cocoa pods - there's plenty of it still around. A chocolate factory is what is needed

nutmeg oil relieves arthritis, it's nut and mace are spices and the fruit is used for jam . Pawpaw is not only tasty, but has healing qualities

soursop + noni both help prevent and treat cancer

Dear Friends

Speaking of Democracy, Honduras, and President Obama. . .

In writing my new book Hoodwinked (Random House, Nov 2009 publication date), I recently visited Central America. Everyone I talked with there was convinced that the military coup that had overthrown the democratically-elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, had been engineered by two US companies, with CIA support. And that the US and its new president were not standing up for democracy.

Earlier in the year Chiquita Brands International Inc. (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Co had severely criticized Zelaya for advocating an increase of 60% in Honduras’s minimum wage, claiming that the policy would cut into corporate profits. They were joined by a coalition of textile manufacturers and exporters, companies that rely on cheap labor to work in their sweatshops.

Memories are short in the US, but not in Central America. I kept hearing people who claimed that it was a matter of record that Chiquita (United Fruit) and the CIA had toppled Guatemala’s democratically-elected president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and that International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT), Henry Kissinger, and the CIA had  brought down Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973. These people were certain that Haiti’s president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been ousted by the CIA in 2004 because he proposed a minimum wage increase, like Zelaya’s.

I was told by a Panamanian bank vice president, “Every multinational knows that if Honduras raises its hourly rate, the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean will have to follow. Haiti and Honduras have always set the bottom line for minimum wages. The big companies are determined to stop what they call a ‘leftist revolt’ in this hemisphere. In throwing out Zelaya they are sending frightening messages to all the other presidents who are trying to raise the living standards of their people.” 

It did not take much imagination to envision the turmoil sweeping through every Latin American capital. There had been a collective sign of relief at Barack Obama’s election in the U.S., a sense of hope that the empire in the North would finally exhibit compassion toward its southern neighbors, that the unfair trade agreements, privatizations, draconian IMF Structural Adjustment Programs, and threats of military intervention would slow down and perhaps even fade away. Now, that optimism was turning sour.

The cozy relationship between Honduras’s military coup leaders and the corporatocracy were confirmed a couple of days after my arrival in Panama. England’s The Guardian ran an article announcing that “two of the Honduran coup government's top advisers have close ties to the US secretary of state. One is Lanny Davis, an influential lobbyist who was a personal lawyer for President Bill Clinton and also campaigned for Hillary. . . The other hired gun for the coup government that has deep Clinton ties is (lobbyist) Bennett Ratcliff.” (1)

DemocracyNow! broke the news that Chiquita was represented by a powerful Washington law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, and its consultant, McLarty Associates (2). President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder had been a Covington partner and a defender of Chiquita when the company was accused of hiring “assassination squads” in Colombia (Chiquita was found guilty, admitting that it had paid organizations listed by the US government as terrorist groups “for protection” and agreeing in 2004 to a $25 million fine). (3)  George W. Bush’s UN Ambassador, John Bolton, a former Covington lawyer, had fiercely opposed Latin American leaders who fought for their peoples’ rights to larger shares of the profits derived from their resources; after leaving the government in 2006, Bolton became involved with the Project for the New American Century, the Council for National Policy, and a number of other programs that promote corporate hegemony in Honduras and elsewhere.  McLarty Vice Chairman John Negroponte was U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, former Deputy Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, and U.S. Representative to the United Nations; he played a major role in the U.S.-backed Contra’s secret war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista  government and has consistently opposed the policies of the  democratically-elected pro-reform Latin American presidents. (4) These three men symbolize the insidious power of the corporatocracy, its bipartisan composition, and the fact that the Obama Administration has been sucked in.

The Los Angeles Times went to the heart of this matter when it concluded:

What happened in Honduras is a classic Latin American coup in another sense: Gen. Romeo Vasquez, who led it, is an alumnus of the United States' School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The school is best known for producing Latin American officers who have committed major human rights abuses, including military coups. (5)

All of this leads us once again to the inevitable conclusion: you and I must change the system. The president – whether Democrat or Republican – needs us to speak out.

Chiquita, Dole and all your representatives need to hear from you. Zelaya must be reinstated.

FOOTNOTES

(1)  “Who's in charge of US foreign policy? The coup in Honduras has exposed divisions between Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton” by Mark Weisbrot

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jul/16/honduras-coup-obama-clinton (July 23, 2009)

(2) http://www.democracynow.org/2009/7/21/from_arbenz_to_zelaya_chiquita_in (July 23, 2009) 

(3) “Chiquita admits to paying Colombia terrorists: Banana company agrees to $25 million fine for paying AUC for protection” MSNBC March 15, 2007 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17615143/ (July 24, 2009) 

(4) Fore more information:  http://aconstantineblacklist.blogspot.com/2009/07/eric-holder-and-chaquita-covington.html (July 23, 2009)  
(5) “The high-powered hidden support for Honduras' coup: The country's rightful president was ousted by a military leadership that takes many of its cues from Washington insiders.” by Mark Weisbrot, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2009

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-weisbrot23-2009jul23,0,7566740.story (July 23, 2009)


Dominica and our Global Environment Home Page   Dominica   The Earth
A Corporate World   the global warming crisis   the World after 9/11 - invasions, oil and an assault on our freedoms

Related links, books & dvd's
Dominica Organic Agriculture Movement the banana's medicinal uses   
 BANANAS - the movie
Mary Eugenia Charles
Enjoying Power is a book about Eugenia
Charles' 15+ years in office as Prime
Minister of  Dominica, 1980 - 1995  
The banana industry of the Windward Islands - The Guardian                                           
Confessions of an Economic Hitman 2006  The Secret History of the American Empire 2008 John Perkins, himself a one time 'economic hitman' (priming the leadership of lesser developed nations for corporate exploitation and economic subservience), wrestled with his conscience till eventually revealing all in these two excellent New York Times bestselling books. Though written and published in the U.S.A., you will be lucky to find them on display on the bookshelves of  any of the well known American book stores.
We must be thankful for the internet!            
John Perkins website