St Vincent and the Grenadines: Banana farmers 'abandoning fields'

Caribbean banana farmers are abandoning fields where crops have been ravaged by disease, it seems.

And it's apparently making the problem worse. Black Sigatoka has affected several countries in the region, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada and Guyana, prompting the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization to step in to support farmers. But in St Vincent and the Grenadines, ministers say efforts to eradicate the disease by cutting back crops with the tell-tale blackened leaves are being hampered by some farmers failing to replant with disease-free varieties or alternative crops, reports the Caribbean Media Corporation news agency.

It quotes Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar as saying: "We are seeing the re-growth of the (affected) bananas in those areas... It is providing the perfect environment for Black Sigatoka." The government is ploughing £800,000 of EU aid into tackling the problem, he adds. Black Sigatoka arrived in the Caribbean in 1991 and has since spread, reportedly reducing the value of exports from St Vincent and the Grenadines by 90%. The banana industry is the biggest sector of the agricultural economy in a nation plagued by high unemployment.

Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.