Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 6th 2014 Contents BG18 | REGIONAL
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MARCH 2014 • WEEK ONE
When Dean, the first storm of the 2007
Atlantic hurricane season, lashed Dominica on
August 16, it left behind a trail of destruction,
claimed the lives of a mother and son, and
decimated the island s vital banana industry.
Seven years later, Dominica s agricultural sector
remains painfully vulnerable to natural disasters
and climate variability. Every year, farmers lose
a significant portion of their crops and livestock
during the six-month hurricane season.
"Our first major hurricane was Hurricane
David in 1979, which ravaged the entire country.
Everything went down," former prime minister
Edison James, himself a farmer, told IPS. "Since
then we ve had storms and hurricanes from
time to time which have caused damage of
"Sometimes we have 90 percent crop dam-
age, particularly bananas and avocados and
tree crops generally."
The banana industry is a valuable source of
foreign exchange for several Caribbean coun-
tries, including Dominica.
The island produces approximately 30,000
tonnes of the fruit annually, earning an esti-
mated 55 million dollars. The neighbouring
islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, which together market their fruit
under the Windward Islands Banana brand,
earn an average of 68 million dollars.
The banana industry is also the second largest
employer on the island after the government,
providing work for 6,000 farmers and many
others within the sector. Research has found
that even slight temperature increases can
damage banana production or even eliminate
James, a longstanding legislator who served
as prime minister from 1995-2000, has shifted
to "multi-crop farming" over the last decade.
But he has suffered huge losses of bananas,
plantains, coconuts, okra, and other crops. He
blames unpredictable rainfall, ironically in a
country best known for its many rivers and
abundance of water.
"There has been drought from time to time
and it has been very intense in areas like Wood-
ford Hill and Londonderry," he told IPS.
So intense was the drought that "the country
was moved to take action to put in place irri-
gation systems," James explained. "So wind
and drought have been the climatic factors
affecting us here in Dominica."
A water resources specialist with the Reduc-
ing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets
Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) proj-
ect in the OECS Secretariat, Rupert Lay, said
the potential losses to farmers in Londonderry
and Dominica as a whole are hitting across
the board, a situation which is increasingly
common in the region.
"Climate change and variability is disrupting
the modus of operation of farmers and as a
result their output volumes are unpredictable
and sporadic," he told IPS.
"The variations in output are wide-ranging,
from bumper harvests to zero yields for respec-
tive periods, and these stressors apply not only
to crops but also to livestock production," Lay
The World Bank reports that agriculture s
share of GDP in Dominica has fallen consistently
with each major natural disaster, with the sector
failing to recover previous levels of relative
Most of this decline is attributable to crop
losses, and specifically the decline in banana
According to World Bank figures, agricultural
production accounted for 12.2 per cent of total
GDP, and overall the sector is estimated to
have declined by 10.6 percent in 2010 on the
heels of a 1.5 per cent growth rate for 2009.
The performance of the crops sub-sector
was severely affected by the extended drought
in 2010, the World Bank said, adding that agri-
culture s decline has been particularly marked
since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Environment Minister Kenneth Darroux
notes that for a country that could be self-
sufficient and provide food to neighbouring
countries, Dominica s food imports constitute
an increasing burden on the economy, and
threaten food security.
He called for "adaptive measures (to) build
resilience to the stressors of climate change in
that a farmer will be better able to maintain
predicted levels of production, thus protecting
expected levels of livelihoods and sustenance,"
Lay told IPS.
These could include better farm manage-
ment, pest control, and broader agricultural
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said
Dominica s vulnerability to climate change is
exacerbated by its present economic perform-
ance, its particular socio-economic structure
and high concentration of infrastructure along
"The additional stress that climate change
places on ecological and socio-economic sys-
tems is not to be underestimated," Skerrit said.
"Climate change is predicted to have severe,
if not catastrophic, consequences over the short
to medium term across sectors such as infra-
structure, agriculture, energy, human settle-
ments and water, if immediate action is not
taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emis-
sions 50 per cent by 2050 from 1990 levels.
"Climate change is clearly the greatest devel-
opment challenge of the 21st century," Skerrit
His St Vincent and the Grenadines coun-
terpart, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves,
told IPS regional countries will be pushing to
strengthen their institutional arrangements to
deal with the impact of climate change.
Gonsalves said that the issue would be dis-
cussed at the upcoming Caricom Inter-sessional
summit in Kingstown, March 10-11.
"There are several dimensions to climate
change [and] clearly an immediate one for us
is how do we better prepare ourselves for
national disasters and how do we better recover
from natural disasters, and we have to look at
the strengthening of our institutional arrange-
ments against3 the backdrop of increased vul-
nerabilities arising from the frequency and
intensity of natural disasters," Gonsalves told
He said this was a serious matter because
"we do not contribute greatly to man-made
climate change but we are on the frontline and
there is lots of talk all the time about monies
for adaptation and mitigation.
"We haven t seen those monies yet. There
are some limited resources which come out of
the World Bank but the kinds of monies which
have been pledged...are yet to be delivered,"
he told IPS.
Gonsalves said this is a matter where the
region would have to do much more coordinated
work, adding "we have a lot of good allies---
the British are now talking in a very serious
way because of what is happening there."
Race on to save
industry from impact
of climate change
Caribbean rum tourism on the rise
With Barbados claiming to be the birthplace of rum, it
has become a popular first stop for visitors on a mission to
learn about the distilling process first-hand from master
blenders who have been growing and fermenting sugar cane
on the island for over 300 years.
Established brands like Mount Gay are enjoying a resurgence
amongst thirsty Caribbean trend-setters, as the company is
currently seeing growth of eight to nine per cent per year
"My own personal appreciation for rum began in 2004
when I toured Mount Gay in Barbados," explains McBurnie.
"Learning about rum is truly a wonderful way to experience
Caribbean culture, so it s not surprising that more and more
people are attending tours and cultural events that celebrate
From November 20-25, the 2014 Barbados Food, Wine
and Rum Festival will be hosting rum cocktail seminars, wine
tastings and cooking demos from top international chefs.
Visitors can also sample authentic Caribbean rum punch and
attend a Mount Gay rum tour.
Rum is a part of everyday life in Barbados and with over
1,500 rum shops within 155 miles on the island, locals and
visitors alike congregate to relax, gossip with neighbors, play
games, eat and drink.
"Rum is the heart of many Caribbean communities," adds
"It contributes millions to the economy and is now becom-
ing an even greater attraction for people wanting to visit the
islands. I anticipate that the trend towards rum-based tourism
will continue well into 2015 and beyond."
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