Dominica's PM warns of banana quota chaos

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

DAME Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of the former British colony of Dominica, has warned there will be chaos if the dispute over the European Community's planned banana quota system is not settled by the end of the year.

The EC is proposing to fix imports of Latin American bananas at 2 million tonnes a year and subject them to a 20 per cent tariff. The unofficial quota for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) exporters, of which Dominica is one, is 620,000 tonnes.

But the Latin producers are fighting the plan through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, claiming it could halve their exports to the EC at a cost of dollars 500m a year.

Dame Eugenia, who last week met Douglas Hurd, Foreign Secretary, and Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, to plead her case, wants the quota on Latin bananas set at 1.5 million tonnes.

She also wants each ACP exporter to be allocated a specific tonnage based on its best year of production and for ACP countries to have an additional 'autonomous' quota so they can benefit from any increase in demand.

Dominica is fighting for its existence against the more powerful Latin producers, and has received a sympathetic response from Britain, where it sends all its bananas. Dame Eugenia says they are more suitable for children as they are smaller, sweeter and smoother.

However, she warned that unless ACP producers were specifically protected, they could be forced out of the market by the lower-cost Latin producers - Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

(Photograph omitted)