Letter: Safety for Caribbean banana-producers

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Sir: I write to support the views of Alistair Smith, Michael Taylor and David Jones (Letters, 21 November) on the cost of scrapping banana quotas. As rapporteur for the European Parliament Development Committee's opinion on this subject, I have spent considerable time talking to banana producers, exporters and handlers in recent months. It is fair to say that I have spent even more time listening to the lobbyists representing the Dollar banana producers who seem to have suddenly discovered the existence of the European Parliament.

Mr Smith and others are correct when they say that if Latin American banana exports to Europe are not controlled by quota, this will spell disaster for the Eastern Caribbean. For certain ACP states (African-Caribbean and Pacific States associated with the EC), and especially the Windward Islands, banana production is a source of income of strategic significance.

For Dominica, bananas represent more than 70 per cent of its export earnings. Moreover, for the Windward Islands, the Community, and notably the UK, represent their sole export market. Large sectors of the population in the Caribbean are employed in the production of bananas or in jobs that depend on banana production. It is important to recognise the small islands' vulnerability to hurricanes. Bananas are the only crop that can be swiftly replanted and yield soon after a disaster. The larger islands and mainland do not have anything like the same problem.

It is quite evident that any disruption of the economies of states which are in such a vulnerable position because of their dependence on banana exports would have far-reaching and grave social and political consequences for which the Community would bear the brunt of the responsibility.

It would be ludicrous, and the public would not understand a situation where the Community was, on the one hand, providing financial aid to banana-producing ACP states while, on the other hand, introducing a trade regime that would lead to the destruction of their economies.

Yours faithfully,

MARGARET DALY

MEP for Somerset and

Dorset West (Con)

Aisholt, Somerset

2 December

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