Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 List of Figures
 Chapter 1: Conceptualizing global...
 Chapter 2: Colonial and post-colonial...
 Chapter 3: Markets, transnationals...
 Chapter 4: The community of Morne...
 Chapter 5: Banana income, agricultural...
 Chapter 6: Contesting and redefining...
 Chapter 7: Flexible without autonomy,...
 Chapter 8: Epilogue: Geest is gone,...
 Appendix A: Questionnaire administered...
 Appendix B: Questionnaire administered...
 Biographical sketch

Group Title: Producing under a globalizing economy : : the intersection of flexible production and local autonomy in the work, lives, and actions of St. Lucian banana growers
Title: Producing under a globalizing economy
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00056224/00001
 Material Information
Title: Producing under a globalizing economy the intersection of flexible production and local autonomy in the work, lives, and actions of St. Lucian banana growers
Physical Description: xi, 196 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Slocum, Karla, 1963-
Publication Date: 1996
Subject: Banana trade -- Saint Lucia   ( lcsh )
Economic conditions -- Saint Lucia   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis, Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1996.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 185-195).
Statement of Responsibility: by Karla Slocum.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00056224
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002118620
oclc - 35757311
notis - AKV8356

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    Table of Contents
        Page vi
        Page vii
    List of Tables
        Page viii
    List of Figures
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
    Chapter 1: Conceptualizing global integration problematics in economy, politics, and culture
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
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            Page 15
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        Page 13
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    Chapter 2: Colonial and post-colonial developments in the establishment of banana production
        Page 16
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    Chapter 3: Markets, transnationals and the state: Securing the place of St. Lucian bananas in the United Kingdom
        Page 46
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    Chapter 4: The community of Morne Verte: Autonomy of work versus working flexibly
        Page 73
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    Chapter 5: Banana income, agricultural diversification and household occupational status in Morne Verte
        Page 105
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        Page 108
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    Chapter 6: Contesting and redefining nation in the farmers' social movement
        Page 134
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    Chapter 7: Flexible without autonomy, income without profits, production with protest: Making the global out of the local
        Page 162
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        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
    Chapter 8: Epilogue: Geest is gone, government role and social movements continue
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
    Appendix A: Questionnaire administered to current banana growers
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
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    Appendix B: Questionnaire administered to former banana growers
        Page 179
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    Biographical sketch
        Page 196
Full Text







Copyright 1996


Karla Slocum


There are numerous institutions and persons who either directly participated in

my doctoral project or who, in various ways, helped make it become a reality.

Financially, my fieldwork in Saint Lucia was supported by both a Fulbright Research

Scholarship offered by the Institute for International Education, and a Dissertation

Research Fellowship through the Inter-American Foundation. My data analysis and

dissertation writing were funded by two fellowships at that University of Florida: the

Zora Neale Hurston Fellowship and the Delores A. Auzenne Fellowship. Additionally,

the bulk of my dissertation write-up was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon

Foundation Dissertation Fellowship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I

am especially thankful to Dr. William Darity, Jr., for his coordination of the Mellon

Fellowship and for his insightful suggestions on my dissertation.

Academically, I have benefitted tremendously from working with my committee

chair, Dr. Marianne Schmink, who has been an invaluable catalyst in the successful

completion of my doctorate. I thank her for her continued support and encouragement

throughout my graduate career. I am also grateful for the assistance and insights of my

other committee members, Drs. Anthony Oliver-Smith, Helen Safa, Peter Hildebrand,

and Barbara McDade.

In Saint Lucia, I was affiliated with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and

Development Institute (CARDI). Thanks go to CARDI-St. Lucia's then director, Mr.

Barton Clarke, who arranged this affiliation and who generously opened up the institute's

resources to me. Among other CARDI staff, I also appreciate the assistance of Mr. Gary

Melville, Mr. David Demacque, Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, and Ms. Sian Floyd, all of

whom made themselves available for consultation during different stages of my project's


I am forever indebted to my research assistant, Angelina (Phera) Polius. Because

she was both astute and dedicated, my research experience was strengthened by her

assistance. Her optimistic and enthusiastic spirit also helped me to persevere through the

months of data collection.

Persons at various institutions also assisted with my project. This includes staff

members at the St. Lucian Banana Growers' Association who provided critical

information about the banana industry. In particular, I wish to extend my gratitude to the

Association's Acting Secretary, Mr. Fremont Lawrence and Mr. Tony Jean Pierre of the

Communications Department, for their assistance and patience.

Additionally, the staff at the Saint Lucia Archaeological and Historical Society

helped me obtain important historical information, while Ms. Polius at the government

Statistics Office generously provided census data on Morne Verte. I also wish to thank

Ms. Armelle Mathurin for completing a thorough translation and transcription of my

questionnaire and interview data.

Moreover, Dr. Leonard Glick of Hampshire College provided St. Lucian

documents that were useful in writing the historical chapter of my dissertation.

Comments from Catherine Lutz, Karen Gibson, and Pedro Farias Nardi on earlier drafts

of this dissertation also were valuable and I am grateful for their feedback.

My greatest debt and gratitude go to the residents of Morne Verte, as well as

banana growers in other parts of the country, for their willingness to participate in my

research and for extending themselves to me during a difficult transition in Saint Lucia.

My research experience was enriched by their kindness and they have left me with

pleasant and lasting souvenirs of Saint Lucia.

Finally, I wish to thank my family Suzanne Elsoffer, John Elsoffer, Robbin

Slocum and Cheryl Slocum for supporting me in every way possible during my

seemingly long graduate school experience, and in particular during the phase of

dissertation writing. I also could not have made it through this phase without the fond

memory of my father, Oliver Slocum, whose enthusiasm for the family's proverbial "ya

done good" was a critical source of encouragement.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................ ............... iii

LIST OF TABLES .................. .......................... viii

LIST OF FIGURES .............................................. ix

A B STRA CT ................. ... ....................... ........... x


Endnotes ........... ................. .............. 15

Endnotes ............................................ 45

THE UNITED KINGDOM ...................................... 46
E ndnotes .............................................. 70

OF WORK VERSUS WORKING FLEXIBLY ....................... 73
Endnotes .................. .. .. ........ ............. 104

IN M ORNE VERTE .......................................... 105
Endnotes ............. ................... ........... 132

FARMERS' SOCIAL MOVEMENT ............................... 134
Endnotes ............. ................ .. ........... 161

GLOBAL OUT OF THE LOCAL ............................... 162

AND SOCIAL MOVEMENT CONTINUE ......................... 169

BANANA GROWERS ........................................ 172

BANANA GROWERS ....................................... 179

BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................... ............... ... .. 185

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................... 196


TABLE pgge

2.1 Farm Indicators for St. Lucia, 1946 ................................ 23

2.2 Crops Grown on Farms One Acre or More, 1946 ...................... 24

2.3 Farms over One Acre by Race and Tenancy of Operator, 1946 ........... 25

2.4 St. Lucian Banana Exports, 1925-1960 ............................. 36

3.1 Market, SLBGA and Grower Prices of Bananas, 1983-1992 ............. 71

3.2 Banana Production Figures in St. Lucia ............................. 72

4.1 Population Distribution of Sampled Morne Verte Farm Household
Residents by Gender and Working Age ............................. 81

4.2 Age Distribution of Sampled Morne Verte Household Residents .......... 81

4.3 Level of Educational Attainment of Sampled More Verte
Household Residents ........................................... 82

4.4 Age Distribution by Gender of Sampled Farm Heads .................. 83

4.5 Level of Educational Attainment of Sampled Farm Heads .............. 83

4.6 Land Size of Sampled Farm Heads in Morne Verte .................... 84

5.1 Bi-weekly Harvesting Costs ..................................... 112

5.2 Tons of Bananas Sold by Producers in Morne Verte .................. 117

5.3 Frequency of Partnership Types by Gender of Farm Head .............. 127

6.1 Production Levels Preceding and Following Strikes .................. 150



Fijgur page

4.1 Map of St. Lucia Showing Location ofMabouya Valley ................ 76

4.2 Planting and Harvesting Calendar ............................. .. 91

5.1 NumberofBoxes of Bananas Sold ................................ 109

5.2. Boxes of Bananas Sold by Female Growers .......................... 110

5.3 Boxes of Bananas Sold by Male Growers ....................... .... 111

5.4 Percent Household Residents Holding Off-Farm Jobs .................. 123

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Karla Slocum

August 1996

Chairperson: Dr. Marianne Schmink
Major Department: Anthropology

This dissertation is about the intersection of economy, politics, and culture

associated with production under today's globalizing economy. It looks at St. Lucia's

changing status in the world banana market and the role of transnational corporations and

state policies in fitting Caribbean bananas into the integrating European Community. I

argue that, together, transnationals and the state promote flexible types of production

where banana producers must assume responsibility for the costs of production. Despite

their "independent" status, these small holders (who make up the bulk of the banana

producing population in St. Lucia) also have little autonomy to determine when, how,

and at what price their activities take place given restrictions imposed at the level of the

state and other national institutions.

Producing under these terms has both economic and cultural consequences. After

labor and other input expenses are paid, profits are low (especially for women) at the

price offered to growers for their product. The rigid structure of banana production in St.

Lucia also challenges cultural expectations of working autonomously and maintaining

oneself independently. Given the country's trade dependency and other policies that

encourage banana production, banana growers (especially males) appear to be slowly

diversifying into other income-generating activities. Maintaining multiple household

occupations is one means by which farm households avoid depending on a weakening

banana industry.

It is within this backdrop that a social movement among banana growers has

surfaced. The movement is characterized by no-harvest strikes and mass rallies for

raising farmers' consciousness. Focussing on state control in the industry, the leaders of

this movement argue for increased participation of growers in decisions that set the

direction of the country's banana industry. By criticizing the state and local officials,

and suggesting that growers' rights in the industry stem from their national identity and

contribution to the nation, they construct the situation as a national problem rather than

as a global strategy.


One Tuesday evening in the countryside of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia,

William heard the radio announcer say in English that tomorrow the St. Lucian Banana

Growers' Association (BGA) only would accept 1/4 size bananas at 25, 19, and 18 cents

per pound, depending on the quality classification of the banana. Shaking his head at the

news, he left the radio on but walked outside to count once again the 20 cartons that he

had purchased from the BGA for tomorrow's harvest. He then gathered up the banana

labels stamped with the logo from the British transnational corporation transporting St.

Lucian bananas to European consumers. When William walked back inside the house

the announcer was talking about the importance of producing quality bananas given

competition in Europe from Latin American producers and given the further integration

and liberalization of the European market. But William was no longer listening to the

radio. Instead, he was thinking about how little money he would make after tomorrow's

harvest with only 25 cents per pound, and how would he be able to pay his house rental?

He was also thinking about the additional costs he would have after he adopted the new

technology package required to produce bananas in the country. Out loud he said to

himself in Creole: "Too much work for no money! Those BGA people and government

are really controlling everything. I'm not even working for myself anymore!"


This dramatic sketch of some real life dynamics illustrates the issues that are the

subject of the next six chapters of this dissertation. Such issues relate to the thorny

confluence of economics, politics, and culture in the lives of people producing for

integrating and liberalizing markets. It is the goal of this dissertation to understand by

what political and economic means people's work activities become structured under

globalization, and how this restructuring affects people's lives in an economic and

cultural sense. Which agents represent the forces of global integration and by what

means do they bring people into a globalized economy? How do the manifestations of

globalization affect people's economic livelihoods and the cultural foundation of their

work activities? And, how are those who are not master-minding globalization

challenging it?

The problematic of being connected to an outside market are not new to the

Caribbean, a region made up of small island states with long-standing colonial influence

and a history of production for North American and European markets. The area has

been characterized as economically vulnerable precisely because of its open economies,

high degree of trade dependence (imports often representing a greater proportion of GDP

than exports), and tendency for producing no more than two main exports. Additionally,

recent trends since the 1980s have led to an even deeper crisis: increasing oil prices,

foreign debts, high food imports, the strong role of multinational receiving tax

concessions, and the stagnation of attempts to diversify economies (Deere, Antrobus,

Bolles, Melendez, Phillips, Rivera, and Safa 1990). Such economic trends pose social

problems to the extent that, for instance, social services may be cut and people become

unemployed or have to rely more on informal means of eking out a living (Maytech

Corporation 1991).

In St. Lucia, a small Eastern Caribbean island with a population of 138,151 and

an area of 238 square miles (United States Department of State 1994; Ministry of

Finance, Statistics and Negotiating 1993), the above-mentioned features also are evident.

With a per capital GDP, at $3,500 U.S., the country's overall GDP is 476 million U.S.

(Ministry of Finance, Statistics and Negotiating 1993; United States Department of State

1994:1). In 1992, the value of exports was recorded at 331 million Eastern Caribbean

(E.C.) dollars (or $123 million U.S.), while import expenditures more than doubled this

at more than $845 E.C. million (or $314 million U.S.) (Ministry of Finance, Statistics

and Negotiating 1993: 66).1 Almost 65 percent of exports (compared to just over 20

percent of imports) are food (agricultural) items (Ministry of Finance, Statistics and

Negotiating 1993:158). Although agriculture is the primary sector of the economy,

manufacturing and tourism also have been encouraged by liberal tax concessions and

waivers of import duties for foreign investors (Ministry of Finance, Statistics and

Negotiating 1993).

Yet, St. Lucia is not economically vulnerable merely due to fiscal crises or

dependency on export earnings. In addition to this, the international market for the

country's primary export (bananas) is tightening while new and more costly production

methods are being put in place and (international and national) institutional roles are

being redefined. Such changes are part of today's methods of global integration that are

more diverse, widespread and sophisticated than previous ways of linking developing

country producers to Western markets. Contemporary forms of integration extend

beyond economic strategies and they also have consequences for spheres other than local

production. They lead multiple and varied actors to meet up and face off through

political, cultural, and economic maneuverings within the development of a global


Understanding Market Integration: Context and Response

Much of the legacy of political economic inquiries within social science is an

emphasis on the impact of capitalism across the world. For instance, dependency and

world-systems theories, as well as studies set within these approaches, certainly deal with

economic linkages that span the globe and the inequalities that come out of this

international set-up (Wallerstein 1974; Frank 1966). Wallerstein, in his proposition of a

single division of labor based on capitalist production for a world market since the 16th

century, deals well with the notion that sites on the globe are economically and unequally

connected. In a slightly different vein, Wolf (1982) also details the way in which the

world has become inter-woven but for him that connection is based on the spread and

interaction of different modes of production.

Many earlier anthropological studies of smallholder production, and how it

intersects with capitalism (at various levels), can be seen within the scope of what

Wallerstein and Wolf were writing about. That is, anthropologists have devoted much

attention to how "internal" peasant practices (economic, social and cultural) work

alongside, within, in opposition to, or in complementary to "external" capitalist structures

(cf. Geertz 1963, Gudeman 1978, Meillassoux 1975). In this way, global linkages are

seen as strictly stemming from economic motivations with economic and social


More recently, social scientists writing about globalization argue that an

economic model of global integration is too narrow to capture what we are witnessing

today. Their critiques of traditional political economy models point out that these

conceptualizations ignore the role of culture as part of the content and consequence of

global flows, and that they also view global interaction as being driven strictly by the

industrialized centers (i.e., the "core") (Grewal and Kaplan 1994; Hannerz 1992;

Featherstone 1990a; Boyne 1990). Thus, the problem with such conceptualizations is

that they do not account for the complexities of interaction between various actors and

institutions in a global field, and the role that all play together in shaping a global system.

Globalization is rather conceived of as a dynamic and complex process, reaching

beyond the possibilities for economic or political linkages on a global scale. It involves

the movement, transfer and connection of goods, people, money, technology and images

at ever-accelerating speeds, over vast terrains and in diverse (non-unilinear) directions

(Appadurai 1990; Hannerz 1992; Harvey 1989). Transnational practices integrate and

compress the globe in novel and unprecedented ways, rendering contact unrestricted to

unequal economic exchanges and face-to-face encounters. As Appadurai (1990:12) says,

new kinds of conflicts emerge where, for example, "Los Angelanos worry about the

Japanese buying up their city." Under such conditions, strict national and global-local

distinctions become conceptually messy since, as Grewal and Kaplan (1994) state, both

the global and the local invade one another.

The global-local nexus is formed by a variety of methods. In an economic sense,

transfers (e.g. financial and commodities) and integration (e.g. of markets) occur out of

the current "flexibility" or "disorganization" that characterizes capitalism today (Harvey

1989; Lash and Urry 1987). That is, capitalist production has become based on ever

more flexible methods of labor uses and labor markets as well as consumption and

production patterns (Harvey 1989). For Harvey (1989), what we now see in capitalist

practices is something distinct from the mass production schemes of Fordist production.

Moreover, for him and others (Lash and Urry 1987; Standing 1989; Nash 1994), it was

during the mid 1970s and 1980s that the organization of production began its major

metamorphosis towards decentralization, following the world recession and the spate of

industrial experimentation that emerged. In the end, "new sectors of production, new

markets...and intensified rates of commercial, technological and organizational

innovations" (Harvey 1989:147) emerged, all based on the notion of flexibility and


While capital has expanded into new places (Nash 1994), the division of labor has

become more complex than before (Lash and Urry 1987). This complexity includes

trends towards more contractual and sub-contractual setups under which piece working,

out-sourcing and temporary or part-time employment are popular ways of using labor

(Harvey 1989). It also involves developing a polarized labor market, with a small sector

of highly skilled technicians and a mass of semi-skilled laborers (Standing 1989).

Consequently, in the new global economy, a majority of laborers are at the low end of

the pay scale due to the skill level of the jobs, while the costs and risks of production

increasingly are being passed along to the contract worker. This sets up an inequality

between capitalist owner and the contracting party to the extent that the latter is in an

even riskier position than if s/he were a traditional wage worker because s/he bears the

risks of production while lacking control over the process.

Additionally, global changes in production techniques and capital accumulation

transactions have meant that past ways of making a living are no longer adequate, given

trends such as unemployment that arise with industry collapse or transition, and/or labor

competition (Nash 1994). Thus, we witness people moving into new (subsistence and

semi-subsistence) occupational forms, or becoming marginalized from employment


In agriculture, contract farming is one of the key features to capitalist

development as flexible accumulation in the present era (Watts 1994). An agricultural

contract agreement means that the contractor owns the crop cultivated by an

"independent" producer. S/he may provide some inputs while the contracting party

supplies his or her labor power and other possessions (e.g. land). Further, although

contracts vary in stipulations and responsibilities between "partners," ultimately they

"define the social space of autonomy and subordination that the grower occupies in

relation to the labor process" (Watts 1994:27).

Of late, farming by contract goes hand in hand with the shift towards an

internationalized agro-food system, based on the export of fresh fruits and vegetables,

because it functions within the "global circuit of capital as part of international

commodity markets" (Watts 1994:35). The contract replaces or complements plantation

style practices based on wage work, and thereby links smallholder households directly

into the new globalized production systems. Thus, as in the industrial sector (indeed, as a

quasi-industrial operation), farming under contract becomes another means by which

capitalist labor relations are restructured to be more flexible.

Multinational and transnational corporations are the agents that bring these

flexible (agricultural and industrial) production schemes to the corners of the world.

Often originating in North America or Europe, they are the contractors, the sub-

contractors, the out-sourcers, the temporary and part-time employers of overseas labor

working on overseas soil. They are an essential fixture in the global nexus, for these

agencies link nations across the globe by virtue of the spread of their activities under the

auspices of a singular company (Berry 1989). Moreover, their activities engender

treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement by merging diverse nations

into centralized markets, thereby rendering global integration a reality.

There is also a political dimension to this global economy and the work of

multinationals for the articulation between multinationals and nation-states is critical in

the new global configuration (Berry 1989; Harvey 1991). As a site where administration,

legislation, and party-politics are devised to extend within national boundaries, the state

represents that which governs, decides, condones, and engenders activities within its

borders, including the work of multinationals. State maneuvers obfuscate the power of

foreign companies within individual nations, and the role that they play in organizing

limited to standards of living. They also have implications for cultural beliefs about

work as an independent and autonomous activity. Cultural and economic consequences

of production for a globalizing market have led to the development of a social movement

among banana farmers Contesting the actions of the state and the SLBGA, growers

reclaim their rights to participation in the decision-making concerning their work lives

and they also proclaim the dignity of their cultural identity as St. Lucians.


1. One U.S. dollar is equivalent to 2.6882 Eastern Caribbean (E.C.) dollars.

2. Morne Verte is a pseudonym.

national production and social interaction. The state thus is critical in the way that

national labor is deployed in line with multinational aims (Watts 1994). International

capital flows are the reward for making sure that the working population meets

multinational mandates (Harvey 1991). Consequently, multinationals are gaining greater

autonomy abroad, thanks to concessions offered by states.

Despite these various ways of integrating the globe, most authors underscore the

paradox that the world is becoming anything but homogenized (Appadurai 1990;

Hannerz 1992). Even though people may have a "sense that the world is a single place"

(Featherstone 1993:171), experience in the new global economy is characterized by

"disjunctures" (Appadurai 1990) or irregularity, rather than ubiquitous and unproblematic

economic, cultural and political fusion. Thus, global forces do not simply overrun the

communities and nations where they enter, but rather they give rise to and/or negotiate

local distinctions.

This is the cultural basis of globalization. The dynamics of integration and the

reorganization of activities often challenge cultural practices in a given location and lead

people to assert a distinctive identity. In the assertion of a local identity, people recreate

global forces as local phenomena as they resist integration on home terrain. Put another

way, people transform global dynamics into local property and projects and use them as

expressions of local identity. As Stuart Hall sees it:

It is a respect for local roots which is brought to bear against the anonymous,
impersonal world of the globalized forces which we do not understand. "I cannot
speak of the world but I can speak of my community" The face-to-face
communities that are knowable, that are locatable, one can give them place. (Hall

Thus, often in acts of protest against the crafty intrusion of globalization, people wrestle

with integration processes at home rather than within an amorphous global field.

Framework for the Dissertation

This dissertation is about the problematic in economy, culture and politics that

emerge with the way in which St. Lucia's banana industry is becoming further integrated

into the liberalizing market of the European Community. It is about the way that

international and national political and economic dimensions structure the activities of

people who produce for an integrating market, how these dimensions intersect with

cultural patterns of work among St. Lucian banana growers, and how they prompt

collective response as a cultural and national project. My argument is that the flexible

production patterns that are part and parcel of today's global economic strategy render the

activities of individual, contracting farmers more risky because these producers bear

more of the costs of production. At the same time, flexible production undermines their

control over the way in which production is organized. The appearance of independence

and autonomy of production is a facade that masks new forms of exploitation.

Transnational corporations linking producers to the European market are largely

responsible for the way that production is organized and for rendering it more flexible


and dispersed. They hold a position of power to the extent that they mastermind much of

the international production process and often set it in motion via contracts. Because the

state (seeking to ensure the nation's place in the market) actively condones and backs

transnational practices within the nation, and because the local banana institutions direct

growers on how to work under flexible production, both the state and local organizations

appear to producers as the visible enforcers of new production practices. Thus, when

people confront globalization, they see it as a local phenomenon rather than one outside

of their purview. They confront it in the form of protest against problems of autonomy

and economic risk, but the economic basis of their organized struggles is displayed as

battles with local officials over government control and national identity.

Organization of Chapters and Methodology

My argument is laid out and concluded in the next six chapters. The history of

the St. Lucian banana industry is told in Chapter Two. In it, I present the way in which

the banana industry developed out of the sugar industry and metamorphosed from a

plantation structure to a smallholder driven activity. A central point made in this chapter

is that the industry has always been circumscribed within an international context, yet the

"external" actors influencing it have shifted from being colonial administrators to state

officials and transnationals. The activities of the latter two helped render the banana

industry more nationally entrenched than its predecessor industry. Eventually politics

became part of the dynamics of banana production as the ruling government


resisted the transition into bananas via various policies supporting sugar. At this point it

placed the government in opposition to the transnational's activities.

In Chapter Three I argue that by the 1970s the British transnational corporation

responsible for buying and shipping St. Lucian bananas intersected with the St. Lucian

state to construct the industry as increasingly global. I show how growers' control over

the organization of their banana production tasks was prevented by formal legislation

prescribing how, when and for whom "independent" banana growers had to cultivate

bananas, in order to achieve a product deemed globally competitive. Additionally, the

rigorous scheduling of banana production, backed by policy (and non-policy), rendered it

virtually impossible for a grower to produce anything but bananas. I also demonstrate

that technology development has increased the burden of production costs on the grower

(at the same time that the country has moved away from foreign-owned plantation

cultivation of bananas).

In Chapters Four I take a look at the organization of banana production in the

community of Morne Verte,2 the largest banana producing community in St. Lucia.

After illustrating how, culturally, Morne Verte residents value working independently, I

show that their banana production tasks have not afforded them much autonomy. This is

because the scheduling of the harvest activities and the technology requirements strip

producers of the ability to decide how and when they will grow bananas. Because they

interface most often with the local Banana Growers' Association in matters of organizing

banana work, this institution appears as the enforcer of more flexible and risky

production practices. Further, the status of the St. Lucian economy, national policies and

restrictions in the industry complicate the possibilities for working in other non-banana

forms of employment.

Chapter Five continues discussion of the community of Morne Verte by looking

at the income status of banana producers in the region. After analyzing production levels

and returns, I show that growers are barely breaking even in their operations. I also point

out that there has not been a widespread movement towards agricultural diversification.

Rather, multiple occupations within the household serve as a buffer against inadequate

incomes from banana production. Moreover, it appears that rendering households even

more multi-occupational has been an emerging and preferred trend.

The sixth chapter discusses the development of a banana growers' social

movement that has brought together the problematic of economics, politics and culture.

Characterized by periodic no-harvest strikes, and by frequent rallies, I contend that this

effort has been about reclaiming the growers' place in the banana industry. Those

crafting the movement have linked that place to the nation. That is, they have claimed

that, as productive citizens of St. Lucia, they belong in decision-making activities

concerning the industry. They direct their charges at the government and national

industry officials who are seen as having taken control of the industry and edging out the

role of the majority who make the industry happen. One of the leaders' strategies for

legitimating their claims and demonstrating their rights within the industry has been to

emphasize the national identity of the banana grower.

After concluding in chapter seven, I provide an epilogue of the current

circumstances surrounding banana production in St. Lucia. I discuss some of the new

directions that the industry appears to be going since I completed my fieldwork and I

offer my conjectures about what this means about the emerging political and economic

basis of banana production.

The arguments presented in these chapters are based on thirteen months of data

collection in St. Lucia. Data were gathered by both qualitative and quantitative methods.

This includes several months of participant observation, interviewing, and ethnographic

research. In this portion of my research emphasis was on the social organization of

banana production, the banana farming system, agricultural policy in St. Lucia, relations

between banana growers and industry officials (especially extension officers and

association officials), and the activities of the leaders of the social movement.

Additionally, I administered a semi-structured questionnaire to 60 banana

growers (see Appendices A and B). This included questions concerning farm

characteristics (land, labor and crop use and sources, seasonal patterns of production, sale

patterns), household composition, life cycle, and occupational structure, forms of

household and non-household assistance, perspectives on the state of the industry, and

perspectives on the current social movement. In Chapter Five I discuss my data

collection methods with the questionnaire in more detail.

Taken together the data collected demonstrate that banana growers in St. Lucia

are working under conditions where they have little autonomy in the way that their work

is conducted and little income from banana sales. While women producers who remain

at the lower end of production have not changed their income status, males have had a

decline in their economic status. However, the problems of banana production are not



The history of banana production in St. Lucia is entangled in many dynamics that

preceded the crop's permanent status as an export endeavor. For instance, changing

world market conditions, sugar production for an external market, the plantation system

(based initially on sugar production), and a rising ex-slave smallholder class all

intersected and essentially pioneered the St. Lucian banana industry. Over time, colonial

administrators, a British purchasing company and plantation owner, and shifting trends in

the world market for bananas became part of the mix that crystallized banana production

as a feature of St. Lucian society.

This chapter takes a look at the historical developments that led to the

establishment of a St. Lucian banana industry and that planted the smallholder class

firmly within it. I use archival, historical, and anthropological sources to discuss how the

end of the plantation system based on slave labor led to the rise of a small scale class of

multi-occupational agricultural producers that was the first to engage in banana

production. Pointing out that complications in the sugar industry created a growing

interest in export banana production, for peasants and planters alike, I also show how the

industry became politicized through the conflictive intersection of colonial

administrators, local government representatives, and a transnational agency. Despite

some obstacles, this intersection eventually linked the industry with smallholder

production unlike any other export crop in the island's history. Thus, the plantation

remained intact and was indeed a significant part of the banana industry, but small scale

producers simultaneously gained a stronger footing in St. Lucia's agricultural export


Small Holders and Plantations in Post-Emancipation St. Lucia

In the British West Indies, plantation agriculture predominated in the 18th-20th

centuries. Before emancipation of slaves in 1838, production on most islands involved

the application of African slave labor to sugar monocropping. One noted feature of this

production system was that slaves, when not working on estate fields, grew crops and

raised livestock on parcels that planters designated to them. This system existed in the

French West Indies as well and was intended to allow slaves to support themselves

through the consumption and sale of their products (Mintz 1989; Trouillot 1988; Tomich

1990). Taking place on hillside lands peripheral to the flat estate tracts, this arrangement

introduced a social and economic relationship between planters and slaves: the latter took

care of their own subsistence, while laboring for the former. After emancipation,

wherever and however possible, Africans in the West Indies continued to tend their own

farms set within plantation societies, leading to their status as, what Mintz (1989) has

termed, a "reconstituted [Caribbean] peasantry."'

Despite a degree of diversity in production, plantations relied largely on returns

from sugar sales to the United Kingdom. Such dependency meant that the status of the

international market for sugar had a strong impact on colonial planters' decision-making.

Subjected to changes in the world market, the price that planters received frequently

varied due to fluctuations in worldwide production levels. In the late nineteenth century

and early twentieth century, an increase in world production of beet-sugar and the

establishment of bounties for sugar producing nations threatened to displace the West

Indies from the market. Feeling the ramifications of declining prices and beet-sugar

subsidies, planters commonly abandoned their plantations and the islands altogether

(Marshall 1965).

St. Lucia was not an exception to these dynamics. After changing hands between

the British and French fourteen times, the country finally became a British colony in

1818 until independence in 1979 (Breen 1844). Since the period of slavery, plantation

production prevailed and occupied a majority of the most fertile and flat lands (Marshall

1965; Shephard 1947). Most of the sugar plantations initially were established in the late

eighteenth century under the French (Breen 1844). The four largest ones were privately

owned by European families and were located in the island's valleys, on the eastern and

western coasts, as well as the north central and southern tip of the island (Breen 1844).

By the late nineteenth century, three of the four were formed into private companies,

with one becoming a government operation. They covered a composite of over 6,000

acres and operated with a total of 2,500-3,000 laborers (United Kingdom 1897:116). The

Dennery Estate was run under private family ownership, while the Cul-De-Sac plantation

was turned over to the government from private ownership in the late 19th century. The

privately held estates in Roseau and Vieux Fort were jointly owned by the St. Lucia

Usines and Estate Company (United Kingdom 1897).

Although the main activity of the largest estates was sugar cultivation, other

practices made up the composite of economic ventures on the plantations. For instance,

plantations housed factories where products such as rum and molasses were

manufactured. Additionally, cocoa, logwood and coffee also were cultivated on estate

fields and exported to the United Kingdom (United Kingdom 1897). Still, these other

ventures were subsumed under, and secondary to, sugar's primacy. Consequently, when

sugar prices dropped, St. Lucian planters, like those in other parts of the West Indies,

began leaving behind plantation life. Reporters of the 1897 commissioned inquiry

(United Kingdom 1897:116), for instance, noted that more than 30 estates had been

abandoned between the years 1887-1897.

Looking at the St. Lucian land registry in a later period, Meliczek (1975:8-9)

observed that, 216 planters gave up 44,000 acres of land to the Crown between 1890 and

1950. It was the more vulnerable smaller estates that tended to abandon production,

while the larger estates held on. The Roseau, Cul-de-Sac and Dennery estates remained

in operation for at least another decade while, during World War II, the Vieux Fort estate

was transformed into a temporary U.S. naval base.

A smallholder class was developing before European planters began giving up on

sugar, but the retreat of many planters helped to expedite its growth. Although, due to

unclear and insufficient data, indicators of a smallholder population are difficult to

discern definitively, Louis (1981) provides the closest evidence in his study of

Stipendiary Magistrates reports between 1845-1854. For him, the reports suggest that

immediately following emancipation there was an establishment of small scale,

independently-run farms. This is because they show an increase in the number of

freeholders over this nine year period. While there were 1,345 freeholders in 1845, six

years later the figure had almost doubled, exceeding 2,500, descending to 2,300 by 1853

(Louis 1981:57). Similarly, by 1897, the West Indies Commission noted that over 5,500

acres (600 of which were planted in sugar cane) were operated by approximately 70

small scale peasant proprietors (United Kingdom 1897:116)

To be sure, acquisition of land was one of the most significant means by which

African and African-descended peoples got their start as socially and economically

independent persons (Mintz 1989). In St. Lucia, land for production and residence was

acquired in at least four significant ways (listed in order of prevalence): squatting,

sharing land communally (known in the Caribbean as "family land" tenure),2

sharecropping (known in St. Lucia as "metayage"), and purchasing land (Meliczek 1975).

All forms of land tenure (with the possible exception of family land) involved some

degree of interaction with the large plantations. Even though the recently freed

population acquired means to produce for itself, it still intersected with larger estates in

temporary, part-time laboring, or tenancy arrangements.

For obvious reasons, it is difficult to assess the extent of squatting and family

land tenure forms.3 Family land has been well addressed in the St. Lucian literature.

However, its place in historical peasant development is a missing feature of most studies,

although its longstanding predominance in St. Lucia is not disputed (cf. Momsen 1972;

Bruce 1983; Barrow 1992; Crichlow 1993). The only reference to the basis of its history

is the French Civil Code, dating back to French colonial rule, which legally justifies

multiple inheritance rights for the kin of someone who dies intestate.

Other land tenure types include squatting and freehold. Acosta and Casimir

(1985) and Lewis (1936) suggest that just after slavery, squatting was the most prevalent

means of land use, especially on abandoned fertile lands or on unoccupied hillside tracts.

Purchasing abandoned land from the Crown, by contrast, appears to have been

uncommon among ex-slaves. Only 725 persons bought approximately 7900 acres out of

the more than 40,000 acres that had been relinquished to the British Crown (Meliczek


Metayage (or sharecropping) was another common practice and important feature

of the social landscape in St. Lucia's agriculture. Beginning in the mid 19th century, it

lasted almost a century during sugar's primacy. The tenant's responsibility was to grow

export crops (primarily sugar cane, coffee or cocoa) and to sell them to the planter-

landlord who kept a portion of the returns (Louis 1981). Metayers also could use the

land to plant other crops for their own use or sale, without any further obligation to the

owner. According to Louis (1981) ex-slaves preferred this arrangement because other

means of holding land were not available to them. Testimony to this is provided by the

fact that in 1841 some type of share arrangement existed on seventeen out of twenty-two

estates in one of the island's districts (Marshall 1965).

Nonetheless, almost a century later, the Royal Commission (United Kingdom

1930) documented a total of 900 metayers and "contributors"4 in St. Lucia compared

with 6,900 estate laborers. This meant that, despite an increase in metayage, wage work

absorbed more persons. Even in wage situations land frequently was made available to

laborers who were given small estate parcels for independent use (Shephard 1947).

When and how to allot land parcels to laborers was left up to planters, and it is possible

to infer, consequently, that working for wages as a means to gain access to land may

have been the least preferable arrangement for the non-European populace. This seems

so because the possibilities for independent production were set according to the

preferences of the planter whose foremost motivations for granting tenure were for the

transfer of labor .

Small holders (or peasants), semi-proletarians and proletarians, therefore, were

constrained because they worked in a setting where large scale agricultural production

predominated and where their activities had to be encompassed within the plantation

regime. More than a century after emancipation, ex-slaves and now ex-indentured

servants from India5 were attached to sugar production in myriad ways, but they also

were producing a variety of crops on their own fields, and became active and

independent participants in St. Lucia's agricultural economy.

Data from the 1946 Agricultural Census (see Tables 2.1 and 2.2) provide some

indicators of the size and nature of the smallholder population in St. Lucia. In this

period, a peasant class outnumbered large planters in St. Lucia, as shown by the sizeable

number of small farms under one acre (2,044) and between one and seven acres (1684),

in contrast to the number for those 10 acres (1211) or even over 100 acres (81).

Table 2.1

Farm Indicators for St. Lucia. 1946

No of farms under one acre 2,980
No of farms over one acre 2,044
No of farms between one
and seven acres 1,684
Total No of farms 5,024
Area of land in farm 66,127
No of farm operators: 2,980
owner-cultivators 2,391
tenant-cultivators: 96
rent for cash 45
rent-free 7
share of crops 42
tenant terms unstated 2
No of hired workers 2,658
No. of family workers 7,606

Source: (Central Bureau of Statistics 1946)

Table 2.2

Principal Crops Grown on Farms One Acre or More (1946)

Croo' Total Farms2 Farm Size (in Acres)
1-5 10 15 20
Total Farms 2,980 1684 296 481 372
Sugar Cane 50 23 12 5 7

Root crops 1,414 786 144 290 162
Other Vegetables 78 54 5 11 8
Bananas 41 22 5 8 3
Cocoa 407 219 43 45 77
Coconuts 474 258 41 52 73
Other fruits and nuts 154 86 15 35 16
Small stock (Pigs, goats) 89 60 7 16 3




'Crops listed are those most frequently grown. The table does not include all crops cited
in 1946 census data.
2Crops on less than five farms not listed.
Source: (Central Bureau of Statistics 1946:33)

Additional indicators of a peasant class (Table 2.3) include: the high number of

family workers (7,606) (which almost triples the quantity of hired workers), and the

proportion of black and mixed race farmers (equaling more than ninety percent of total

farmers over one acre). These variables attest to the disproportionate presence of a non-

European, small family farming group. They further suggest that while large scale

plantations might dominate the island in terms of acreage, their domination of the social

landscape is quantitatively less significant.

Table 2.3

Farms over One Acre. by Race and Tenancy of Operator and by Size of Farm (1946)

Total Farm Size
1 5 10 100
Black (and Carib) 1,573 456 401 685 28
White 31 6 3 11 11
Asiatic 170 35 45 85 5
Mixed or Colored 1,204 359 378 429 37
Race not stated 2 1 -- 1 -
Total 2,980 857 827 1,211 81

Source: (Central Bureau of Statistics 1946:35).

In terms of the distribution of crops for large and small holders, the census data

indicate that non-export food crops, especially root crops, were more commonly grown

on small plots (Table 2.2).6 However, this does not preclude the existence of export

crops on small farms. Indeed, two crops typically grown for export during this period,

cocoa and coconuts, were found on small and large farms and appear to have been most

common on medium range farms between five and twenty acres. Banana production,

also was more prevalent among the medium farming group and, as we will see in the

next section, bananas were grown for international sale by 1946. Thus, operators on

small parcels were indeed represented in the production of export crops as well as non-

export crops.

The 1946 census data do not reveal combinations of agricultural activities such as

those farms carrying out own-account production while engaging in wage labor. The

widely diffused throughout St. Lucian society. It was international market competition

that displaced St. Lucia from the sugar race and that created the possibilities for bananas

to be sugar's successor. But with this possibility came new policies, and new

institutional and political actors, all of which affixed banana production in St. Lucia in

such a way that it extended beyond the boundaries of the farm field. They also came

together to structure a national banana industry. Although the introduction of Geest

Industries initially began as one of conflict with the state, the company's role seemingly

narrowed and unproblematized the distance between European markets and St. Lucia

farm fields by taking both local production and foreign distribution under its wing.


1.According to Mintz (1989) a reconstituted peasantry refers to a peasant population that
emerged after emancipation, but that had already been in the making under slavery.

2.Although colonial documents in the 1940s referred to Family Land as an obstacle to
"efficient" farming, there are insufficient data suggesting the period during which this
tenure form emerged, or assessing its scale in St. Lucia prior to the 1970s.

3.Family land, described in more detail in Chapter Five, is a communal form of land
tenure based on family inheritance rights.

4.Contributors were producers who worked on freehold or leased land and who sold cut
canes to the plantations for processing into sugar by-products.

5. As in other parts of the West Indies, Indians from East Asia were brought to St. Lucia
as indentured servants at the end of the 19th century, to make up for the loss of slave
labor and the withdrawal of the emancipated population from estate work.

6.The census data do not provide information on cropping patterns for farms under one
acre, despite the remarkable proportion of farms in this category.

7.The St. Lucia Labour Party is the same party which had held power in the 1950s. It
lost its primacy to the conservative United Workers Party with the 1964 elections.


clearest indicator of these types of practices is found in the Moyne Commission report on

the economies of the West Indian colonies. According to this document, one of the

largest classes of peasant producers in the region was that which depended primarily on

wages while simultaneously renting small land parcels to grow food crops (United

Kingdom 1945:43). At the same time, the Commission noted that the "best" type of

peasant farming in the colonies involved farmers working on rented holdings of one to

five acres. The commission considered these growers to be exceptional because they

carried out both production for consumption and for sale (United Kingdom 1945:43).

This recognition by the Commission reveals two important trends that help

further clarify our picture of the West Indian non-European smallholder. First, if the

commission's observations are correct, they demonstrate the existence of small holders

engaging in multiple agricultural activities at this time. They thus suggest and support

Louis' (1981) claim that in the 19th century peasants continued to combine wage

activities with own-account production. The Commission report further shows that the

practice continued well into the next century and, as we will see, it is a feature that holds

into the present day.

The second important point is related to the first. In carrying out their multiple

activities, peasants were both subsistence producers and cash crop farmers. Previously,

colonial administrators in St. Lucia had decried peasant agriculture for its purported strict

emphasis on subsistence production (cf. West Indies 1897). The Moyne Report may be

evidence that this belief --a belief that informed agricultural policy for the West Indian

colonies-- was ill-founded and that peasants not only were active and developing their

independent work in agriculture, but also that they were enterprising in the midst of

plantation dominance.

Shift in Colonial Policy Towards the Peasantry

Despite evidence that a viable smallholder class existed since the 19th century,

official sources failed to recognize their presence until sugar's reign in the West Indian

colonies was faltering. Thus, immediately following slavery there was not an explicit

nor implicit policy to develop the existing small scale farming sector (Shephard 1947). It

was not until the 1897 West India Royal Commission Inquiry that administrators looked

more seriously to smallholder activities because the sugar industry appeared to be in

jeopardy. Calling for measures to restore sugar to its state of profitability, the

Commission suggested that the West Indian colonies might turn to peasant producers to

"support themselves" (United Kingdom 1897:17)), rather than see them as a source of

plantation labor. In the wave of land abandonment, estate abandonment, and Colonial

efforts to deal with their effects (e.g. commissioning an inquiry into the island's

economies), peasant production appeared to the Commission as the region's best option.

Yet, at this time the Commission also recommended that large estate production should

continue in tandem with peasant cultivation since :

in many places [large estates] afford the best, and, sometimes the only profitable
means of cultivating certain products...it is not impossible for the two systems, of
large estates and peasant holdings, to exist side by side in mutual advantage.
(United Kingdom 1897:17)

This statement marks the first time that there is an official recommendation for

planters to cease attracting African and East Indian labor to the estates in favor of

creating an environment by which this population could work independently. It included

implementing mechanisms to bolster the economy by expanding the possibilities for

small scale production. The Commission's plan is significant because it contradicts

planter's longstanding strategies to affix labor to the plantations (Louis 1981).

In the 1940s, colonial administrators again turned to the peasant sector as the

solution to a once again wavering sugar industry. Recommendations in the 1945 Moyne

Report concurred with previous commissioned inquiries and called for the further

extension of peasant settlements throughout the West Indian colonies. What was new

about the Moyne authors' perspective, however, was their observation of smallholder

agriculture, its diversity and deficiencies, as well as its potential for benefitting the ailing


In this great diversity of peasant holdings certain general characteristics are clear.
Husbandry is not systematic, the productivity of land is low, shifting cultivation is
often the basis, livestock are few and poorly managed, while indebtedness is
almost universal. ... In spite, however of the disadvantages and weaknesses
existing in this system, there is to be found among every type of peasant
proprietor a number who are well-fitted in every respect to profit handsomely
with encouragement. (United Kingdom 1945:44)

Subsequent reports (GOSL 1946) in St. Lucia mimicked the critiques and visions of the

Moyne inquirers, and there developed an island policy to re-arrange peasant resources

and practices so that these could contribute to the colony's economy.

The most frequently cited report is known as the 1951 Team of Experts Report.

It looked into the "possibilities of developing the agriculture" of St. Lucia (Development

and Welfare Organisation of the West Indies 1951 :i). Considered the most up-to-date

document on the state of peasant agriculture in St. Lucia, the report was used widely as

an explanation for the failings of peasant agriculture. Its recommendations informed

programs within the colony and were recognized as a model for island development.

In the report's third chapter the authors critically condemn peasant practices.

They stated that the main problems depressing the efficiency of small holder cultivation

in St. Lucia were its unproductive use of land (including the use of land for subsistence

production and for shifting cultivation, family and land tenure practices), lack of capital,

and lack of technical knowledge. However, they argued that attempting to improve the

condition of growers by providing capital to them via loans would be a mistake without

first obtaining a guarantee for increased efficiency. This warning was a significant key

to the document for it creates a space for colonial administrators to actively transform the

face of peasant agriculture and to attempt to render it more efficient according to the

team's criteria.

Indeed, the team called for the formation of growers' associations (especially

banana and cane growers associations), the formation of peasant settlements, and the

funding of various Development Authorities and Associations from which technical

knowledge and agricultural skills could be transferred to small holders. All suggestions

advocated creating or increasing the direct involvement of colonial administrators in

peasant's activities, through the transfer of knowledge and skills to peasants, and by

closely scrutinizing their activities.

There is no doubt that the policy shift related to the declining sugar industry, but

it also was connected to the banana industry and its early development. As if to

transform the island's sugar monoculture into a banana one and to continue avoiding a

diversified agricultural economy, the Team recommended that pure stand bananas be

increased on a widespread basis. It linked this recommendation specifically to small


To organise a banana export trade it is essential to have large areas of pure stand
bananas. It is from such large areas that shortfall in production by small farmers
can be made up at short notice. Thus, if a contract is made to ship 5,000 stems
and only 4,500 come forward from farmers. .it is essential to get the extra 500
stems as quickly as possible and this can be done easily from large pure stands.
(Development and Welfare Organisation of the West Indies 1951:39)

Seeking other measures that would accelerate banana production in St. Lucia, the Team

also advocated establishing a banana growers association for small holders already

exporting bananas. Further, almost 20,000 British pounds of support was directed into

the banana industry after the report suggested that colonial administrators fund banana

production ("Rise of the Banana Industry..." 1955:35). Thus, while the sugar industry

was deteriorating and large scale plantation agriculture was wavering, banana production

appeared to be growing in the backdrop, and peasant agriculture suddenly gained

favorable recognition. The specific policies to change the island's agricultural economy

thus fit well with a developing banana industry based on small scale cultivation.

The Beginning of Bananas

Historians of the West Indian peasantry trace the beginnings of bananas in the

region to the fields of African descendants. The crop probably began as a consumption

and regional trade item on the fields of ex-slaves and their descendants (Lewis 1936;

Marshall 1969), but by the 1920s when it became an international export product, it also

was noted as part of the cropping system on large estates. Nonetheless, in St. Lucia, it

can be argued that initially bananas were seen more as a peasant product since the

primary export crops grown on large plantations were cane and cocoa, while small

holders were noted for banana specialization (United Kingdom 1945). Even by the

1950s when banana production was becoming an important feature of St. Lucia's

agricultural landscape and plantations contributed more to the total island output of

bananas, the average output per field was higher on peasant plots (United Kingdom

1955/56). Moreover, of the total 2,500 acres designated to bananas, 1,500 of this was in

peasant holdings with the remaining 1,000 in estate possession (United Kingdom


The reasons why bananas ascended to prominence in St. Lucia are multi-faceted.

The 1950s brought in international and national conditions and circumstances that

accelerated the entrance of bananas into the island economy, including severe depression

in the sugar industry caused by competition in the world market for sugar. Additionally,

two other external post-war factors helped engender the emergence of banana production

in St. Lucia. Prior to WWII, both Jamaica and the Canary Islands had been important

suppliers of the UK market. The loss of their imports forged an opening for Windward

Island bananas. Interrupted shipping during the war, and environmental constraints led

to the drastic decline and eventual cessation of Jamaican banana production for the UK

market (Persaud 1967). Similarly, increased protection of imports from commonwealth

countries withdrew the privileged space that non-commonwealth producers held on the

market, including those producers in the Canary Islands (Trouillot 1988).

While on the global scene sugar prices and import policies influenced the

transition into bananas, these conditions, accompanied by local developments and

circumstances in St. Lucia, helped usher bananas into the economic and social context of

this West Indian colony. As we have seen, efforts such as the Team of Experts'

recommendations also added to the creation of a framework for allowing banana

production to become a part of Caribbean economies. Beyond this institutional

framework, however, lie the local, pre-existing possibilities for bananas to become a

success in St. Lucia. These emanated from the character of the peasant sector itself.

Trouillot (1988) has argued that the key to the successful entrance of banana

production into a Windward Island economy, such as Dominica, was the congruence of

banana cultivation with what he calls a "peasant labor process". He contends that

peasants' preferred work in which the unit of production integrated with the unit of

consumption, and that income earning activities became significant inasmuch as they

could meet the needs of the domestic unit (Trouillot 1988:5). He further shows how,

based on their cultivation on slave provision grounds, Dominican peasants had a long

history of working in this manner. Bananas, as a type of provision crop, fit well with


peasants in this context because they matched the peasant diet. In the event that the crop

could not be sold, it still had a use value and could be consumed. For Trouillot, this is a

primary reason why banana production was accepted and adopted by Dominicans like no

other crop:

In comparison to the other possible peasant crops of Dominica, bananas offered
much higher consumption thresholds. These higher thresholds meant that the
crop could be integrated in the peasant work process as well as, vanilla or coffee,
but reach a degree of consumptive integration that none of the other crops could
enjoy. The crop fitted so well patterns of consumption that it could become a
staple in the peasant diet. (Trouillot 1988:133)

Trouillot may be correct that the connection between banana production and

smallholder consumption helped make the crop attractive and its fit with the agricultural

development of the Windward Islands tighter. However, other factors also may have

been significant, especially the importance of the economic incentive for banana

production. Unlike sugar cane which directly preceded bananas in St. Lucia, bananas

represented a less seasonal scheduling of work activities and income. Working as cane

contributors peasants in St. Lucia obtained their income seasonally. In banana

production they could sell the crop at least on a bi-weekly basis by the end of the 1940s

(Windward Island Annual 1963:35).

The introduction of a British shipping company (Geest Industries) into the St.

Lucian banana environment also brought financial incentives and long-term guarantees to

growers. The company offered a 10 year contract with the Banana Growers' Association

to sell bananas on a weekly basis. At the same time it gave growers monetary incentives,

such as an additional 1/4 cent per pound of bananas for those who wrapped their own


bananas and followed the Company's guidelines for assuring proper handling of bananas

(Biggs, Bennett and Leach 1963:25-27). These combined economic incentives may have

been sufficient to induce growers into shifting swiftly and permanently into bananas,

with the additional advantage that they could "eat their figs" (e.g.. bananas) (Trouillot


As I will show with my own data, and as has been suggested by authors such as

Louis (1981), peasants in St. Lucia and elsewhere value their work autonomy and the

opportunity to distance themselves from dependence on wage labor. It could be argued

that receiving a steady and seemingly guaranteed income complemented this sense of

independence. Additionally, selling bananas distanced peasants from the estates because

rather than sell their goods to estate owners who would then process the sugar canes, they

were marketing their products to an agent unattached to the plantation system. Thus, I

concur with Trouillot, that there are local factors which contributed to the success of

banana's entrance into the region. I assert, however, that variables such as independence

and income security might be equally as operative in the peasant transition into banana

production, unlike any other crop in the region's history.

This opening continued to widen from the 1950s onward when the development

of an international and national framework for the banana industry in St. Lucia rendered

banana production an irreversible fixture in the St. Lucian economy. The groundwork

for shipping overseas had already been set by a series of international companies that had

been contracting with St. Lucian producers since the 1920s. In 1925, the Swift Banana

Company, a Canadian shipping enterprise, linked the colony to the British market,


sparking the take off point for accelerated production of bananas in St. Lucia. Within a

decade, banana exports had nearly doubled and continued to expand until the WWI

period (see Table 2.4). At least three other foreign shipping agencies contracted with St.

Lucian producers following the demise of Swift. In the early 1950s shipping resumed

and production excelled following a setback during the war period. Moreover, in 1954,

when production was up to almost 300,000 stems and Antilles Products Ltd. (replacing

Swift Banana Company) handled island exports to the UK, Geest Industries bought out

this company, and took hold in St. Lucia's economy in a momentous way.

Table 2.4
St. Lucian Banana Exports: 1925-1960

Year No. Stems (or equivalent)
1925 20,818
1935 40,000
1936 90,000
19371 110,000
1938 140,000
1939 70,000
1940 65,000
1941 50,000
1942 5,000
1947 1,511
1948 1,853
1950 20,862
1951 10,000
1952 38,000
1953 130,000
1954 295,000
1955 445,687
1956 783,950
1957 953,000

'Two sources ("Rise of the Banana Industry..." 1955, and Development and Welfare
Organization of the West Indies 1951) report conflicting data for 1937; The
Development and Welfare Organization of the West Indies reported 127,000 stems of
Sources: Windward Islands Annual 1955:34 (figures are approximates based on chart
data) Geest Industries (B.W.I.) Ltd. 1959-60:40; Development and Welfare Organization
of the West Indies 1951; West Indies 1951-52.

The entrance of Geest into St. Lucia's banana production was timely and

expedient. The island experienced another depression in sugar production in the 1950s

from which it did not recover. With political, policy, and institutional support for banana

production growing apace following the official recognition of the sugar crisis, small

scale cane "contributors" converted their fields into bananas. Additionally, even though

bananas initially were more central to the peasant cropping system, large plantations

shifted away from cane cultivation to a concentration on banana production. The

Dennery estate, which remained under private family ownership until the late 1970s, was

the first to close down operation of its sugar factory and to make this conversion to

bananas in 1958 (United Kingdom 1990). The other two plantations in Cul-De-Sac and

Roseau were owned by Sugar Manufacturers Ltd., a public liability company. In 1954

that company took over the estates after their private owners were forced into liquidation

the preceding year (United Kingdom 1990). Yet, the estates' status as public companies

was short-lived. Five years after the take-over, Geest Industries (the shipping company)

made an attractive offer to shareholders for 50% above the shares' original value, and

acquired both estates (GOSL 1963).

In return for agreeing to the buy-out and waiving export duties for the company,

the ruling government administration in St. Lucia required that Geest maintain a majority

of the Cul-de-Sac valley in sugar cane and expand sugar cultivation in Roseau (GOSL

1963). This stipulation speaks to the developing conflict over bananas and sugar in St.

Lucia. Not many years before Geest attached itself to plantations, the island's Chief

Minister and some Cabinet members had come into power fighting for workers' rights in

the sugar industry. As trade unionists, they led estate laborers across the country in

prolonged strikes for higher wages (Charles 1994). Gaining widespread support for their

successful negotiations, trade union leaders were voted in as the colony's first local

administrators. Consequently these officials maintained a belief in the power of sugar


Jan van Geest, founder and head of Geest Industries, had a different vision.

Despite his agreement to hold a proportion of Roseau and Cul-de-Sac under sugar cane,

he saw profits in bananas. Within six years, Geest's plan to cease cane cultivation

altogether were visible to the administration:

In spite of the [Geest Industries] Company's avowed assurance to continue in
sugar, Government noted as from 1960 a determined departure from sugar cane
production to banana production on a gradual scale extending even to the Roseau
valley. Although the Managing Director of [the Company]. .. .expressed ....
his disappointment in the 1963 crop in that preliminary figures indicated a
substantial loss, however, Mr. van Geest. assured Government that the
Company would not go out of Sugar if Government so wished. (GOSL 1963:1-2)

Quoting a recent letter from Geest Industries, the administration statement went on:

As already stated in our letter of 31st May and on other occasions since
then. the Company has decided to go out of sugar because of a number of
factors that have rendered field and factory operations in cane and sugar
substantially uneconomic. GOSL 1963:2)

Indeed, by 1964, all large estates in St. Lucia had ceased cultivation of cane and cane

processing, moving into a cropping system where bananas ascended to primacy, and a

transition out of sugar cane was evident.

Bananas and Metamorphosis of the Plantation System

Banana production in St. Lucia brought not merely a transformation of the

island's predominant cropping system and a deepening of institutions surrounding the

agricultural economy of the colony, it also metamorphosed the historic plantation-peasant

system. That is to say, eventually plantations lost their footing as the predominant

production form, and cultivation of bananas based on peasant practices gained higher

rank. Plantations and peasant proprietors alike continued to work side by side,

depending on the same primary crop and selling via the Banana Association to the same

international agent. But by the 1960s, of the 10,000 registered banana growers (Biggs,

Bennett and Leach 1964:11), small scale growers contributed more bananas to the total

output than did their large grower counterparts. Figures from the next decade show that,

of the approximately 6300 growers registered in 1978, more than 5,600 (89%) of them

were classified as "under small" (Yankey, Henderson, Liverpool, Aitchison and Eaton

1990). This category corresponds to those growers whose production level is below an

average of 500 lbs per week. By contrast, medium and large banana farmers who grow

no less than 1,400 lbs per weekly average represented 37 (.6%) of this total (GOSL 1980:


In 1990, a similar distribution existed. Membership in the Banana Growers

Association again had grown to 8,218, and 97 percent (or 7958) of the growers fit within

the small and under small categories, a total of 5452 or 66 percent comprising the under

small classification. As in 1978, those in the large and medium category were under-

represented, making only three percent (or 260) of the total number of growers.

The output according to grower classification suggested a different trend. Thirty-

one percent of total production was generated by large and medium growers while 69

percent came from the small and under small producers (Yankey, Henderson, Liverpool,

Aitchison, and Eaton 1990). This suggests that while there was a decrease in the

proportion of under small growers, this group continued to have a firm and

disproportionate representation in the total producer population and in St. Lucia's total

banana yields.

Land holdings also attest to the predominance of small growers in St. Lucia after

bananas had taken hold. According to the 1973/74 census data, 88% of holdings were

under ten acres (Ministry of Agriculture 1973/74:15), rising only slightly from 85% in

1946 (Central Bureau of Statistics 1946:35). Although the total number of holdings had

increased drastically from just over 5,000 in 1946 to over 10,000 in 1973/74, the ratio of

small to large parcels had been maintained, with the total number of small farms more

than doubling (Ministry of Agriculture 1973/74:15).

Further evidence of small holders' rapid climb to the forefront of banana

production, and their quick abandonment of cane cultivation, is provided in the testimony

by Jan van Geest, owner of the Roseau and Cul-de-Sac estates. In his discussions with

government officials, he addressed the status of sugar estates and the possibilities for

maintaining sugar production on them (GOSL 1960). To the dissatisfaction of the

government, Geest underscored the factors that rendered the regression of cane

cultivation beyond the power of the estate. One of these was the work of independent

cane growers, or contributors, who supplied the estates with cut canes for processing. By

the 1950s and 1960s, estates were concentrated in the processing of cane and the

manufacturing of sugar by-products (e.g.. rum, molasses), relying on independent

farmers to supply cane for these processes. But, according to Geest, bananas were

enticing cane growers out of sugar cultivation, and estate owners did not possess the

control to reverse this trend. In Geest's opinion:

we think [continuing in sugar] is possible. .. .that by using all available land
... .that we will maintain the present production... I do not know whether it will
be possible to get the cane farmers to grow more canes because the banana
industry is very attractive and I think that already some of them are growing more
bananas than cane. .if this industry will be able to survive it will mean that we
have to do everything possible from our [the estate] side. (GOSL 1960:2)

In a dialogue with the colony's chief minister who insisted on the primacy of sugar, this

issue was further underscored:

Chief Minister: If your hillside land is cultivated in cane and the cane farmers
prefer to plant banana then the company may be forced. .to take this land from
them [cane farmers] for the purpose of extending sugar. But, if you. are
cultivating bananas when sugar cane was cultivated before, it would be wrong for
us to frustrate the cane farmers by compelling them to grow more canes.

Van Geest: We could not say that a man who rents 10 acres must grow 10 acres in
cane; but we must insist. .that he must grow percentage in canes. (GOSL
1960:10, my emphasis)

Strides in the development of the banana industry thus manifested themselves in

terms of an increase in independent smallholder participation in St. Lucia's agricultural

economy. Ten to fifteen years after export banana production took off (e.g.. with the

introduction of Geest as the shipping agent) the bulk of land --and certainly most of the

flat and fertile lands- remained in the hands of large plantation owners. Yet, small scale

producers not only outnumbered large scale ones (as they did prior to banana's

international export entrance into St. Lucia), they also could finally work independently

of the estates. As Acosta and Casimir (1985:51) observe:


[A] consequence of the. .. .predominance of banana over the previous cash crop
consists in the destruction of traditional linkages between small-scale farming and
estate farming. The plantocracy lost its privileged economic position whereby it
used to control the only avenue open to small producers --contributors and
metayers-- on the world market.

Final erosion of the large estate system in St. Lucia occurred in the late 1970s and

early 1980s by which time the three major estates had become transformed and/or sub-

divided either into state property or small farm units. The 1970s also marked a period of

labor agitation, and political and social transition in St. Lucia. Similar to the political

and ideological ripples that carried the New Jewel Movement onto Grenada's social

terrain, tides of change washed over St. Lucia with the resurrection of the St.Lucia

Labour Party7 and the establishment of various national social groups. These groups,

begun by intellectuals and political activists in the colony, criticized St. Lucian society

on the whole. Drawing on popular notions of dependency, they also challenged the

Caribbean island's position in the international/colonial field. According to one of the

leaders (DaBreo 1981), the groups began as fora for discussing problems within St. Lucia

and accelerated into active campaign against these ills.

One way in which the campaign was waged was through trade union activity that

mobilized estate workers to protest worker conditions and terms. Over a four year period

(1973-1977) worker strikes and protests continued to challenge the estate structure,

calling for increased wages, improved barracks, etc. (DaBreo 1981). While

improvements in salary and conditions were granted, the estate structure eventually

crumbled. It is beyond the scope of this dissertation to draw out the exact causes of the


dismantling of St. Lucia's plantation system, however it is perhaps significant to note that

all former estate managers with whom I spoke attribute the demise of St. Lucia's

plantation's to trade unionist activity.

In 1979, the same year that St. Lucia achieved its independence from Britain, the

Barnard family, owners of the Dennery estate, relinquished sole ownership and entered

into a "joint" ownership arrangement with a private British company and with the St.

Lucia government, changing the name to the Dennery Farm Company (FARMCO).

Eventually, in 1981, the Barnard family sold out completely and the plantation became

entirely a state enterprise. Today, the estate continues to function as a large estate --the

last one of the four initial plantations on the island. However, much of it has been sub-

divided and leased out by a state agency, with a reduced "core estate" still standing.

Both the Cul-De-Sac and Roseau estates also were parceled up, sold or leased into

small plots to farmers. Farmers purchasing plots in Cul-de-Sac bought the holdings for

their own independent use. In Roseau, by contrast, small farmers leased lands, and their

crop mixtures and production techniques were monitored by the St. Lucia Model Farms

Ltd, a company formed in 1982 and owned by Geest Industries, the St. Lucian

government, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation. By 1987 over 100

small farmers had entered into leasehold agreements with an option to purchase their

parcels after 15 years (National Development Corporation 1987:2). As producersfor

Model Farms Ltd, they were required to practice pure-stand cultivation of bananas on the

five acre plots in the valley flats, or diversified tree crop cultivation on ten acre plots on

hillside lands (National Development Corporation 1987:3). Thus, the break up of the

large estates helped opened up some land to small holders and rendered banana

production driven even more by own-account cultivators. However, as I show in the

next chapter, farming activities have become increasingly less independent since these

changes began transforming the structure of the banana industry in St. Lucia.


The post-emancipation plantation system based on sugar production which

predominated in St. Lucia until two decades ago, comprised an economic and social

system in which monocrop production of a cash crop was grown on fertile valley lands

and African-descended peasants were linked to the plantation through different laboring

arrangements. The gradual reversal of this system came with sugar's exit and the

entrance of bananas as a permanent export crop when the number of peasant banana

growers simultaneously sky-rocketed and smallholder production of bananas outstripped

the volume of bananas generated by the estates. Eventually, as we see today, banana

production became primarily a peasant activity and after much political maneuvering

and institutional building, plantation agriculture was relegated to peripheral status.

Global conditions, colonial policy and peasant preferences are the myriad factors that

contributed to placing small holders as prime producers for the nation's banana industry.

One difference between sugar and banana production in the St. Lucian context is

the way in which the latter became nationally entrenched. Unlike the social dynamics of

sugar which hovered around plantation interactions (e.g., wage labor arrangements,

metayage, exporting by the plantation owners), those surrounding bananas became more


If you are doing work that results in a kind of production and you cannot
independently put a price on it, then in my opinion it is senseless and a waste of
time. If also as a gardener you harvest your crop and give it to another person to
sell for you, but [you do] not know the selling price of your [product] unless you
indirectly ask another person, [and] after you have been told the price and you
do your own calculations, you realize that it is the agent who does not pay you
fairly ... that is the problem.
-a banana grower (my emphasis)


Many contemporary authors of political economy point to the important role that

multinational corporations and nation-states play in propelling the trajectory of

globalization. At the most basic level, this is achieved when multinationals working in

countries across the globe end up linking these diverse nations (Berry 1989). By so

doing, they help make possible integrating arrangements such as North American Free

Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the European Economic Community (EEC), and thus

contribute to tightening transnational ties.

Moreover, the various ways in which multinational corporations articulate with

nation-states also accelerate global integration. For instance, Mattelart (1983:14)

believes that transnationals take a dominant position over nation-states. They infiltrate

the nation-state system, by installing a new system of production that is part of a larger

project for creating cultural change. Consequently, the structures of the nation-state are

targeted as obstacles to integration, and measures are applied that erode the existing

apparatus of the state and its institutions.

For Harvey (1991), the nation state takes an active role in accommodating

globalization, by working in tandem with international agents of integration. For

example, he argues that the nation-state finds ways to discipline labor and render it

compatible with forms consistent with flexible production arrangements characteristic of

a new global economy. Like Harvey, Giddens (1990) asserts that the nation-state

actively brings the nation into conformity with the demands of a globalizing world.

Carrying out its role as a modem and globalizing institution, the nation-state develops

certain characteristics (especially power over and surveillance of the nation) to ensure its

fit into the modem world.

I am most persuaded by Harvey's and Gidden's ideas, and their attention to the

active role of the state in working with changing international contexts. In my

estimation, St. Lucia appears to be an example where state activities purposefully

complemented the goals of the transnational (Geest Industries) linked to the island's

banana industry. In this chapter, I show how this tendency has intensified within the past

ten years. By looking at transformations in the island's contract with the transnational

company, and reviewing developments in state policy, I argue that together the

transnational (TNC) and the St. Lucian state have become critical motivators and avid

proponents of global integration. Both have evoked measures to ensure that production

and sale of bananas is conducive to the demands of the transnational--the supplier of

bananas to the United Kingdom.

The primary means of preserving St. Lucia's place in an integrating European

market has been through a contractual monopsony arrangement with the transnational,

and through the development of legislation guiding banana production practices and

regulation. The clauses of the contract and various Parliamentary Acts have made it

possible for Geest and the St. Lucian state to predominate in decision-making regarding

the banana industry. The consequence of this predominance is that banana growers have

no choice but to supply their product "competitively" to the U.K. market.

In my discussion below I draw heavily on Michel-Rolph Trouillot's (1988) study

of banana production in Dominica, West Indies. This work includes lengthy analysis of

the institutional arrangements that guide banana production in the Windward Islands.

Yet, despite the astute observations and analyses drawn by Trouillot, I depart slightly

from his interpretation of the role and significance of the transnational. I suggest, rather,

that international treaties and the state also are forceful players in determining how

Windward Island bananas get produced, sold and shipped.

The Lome Convention Re-links the Caribbean to the United Kingdom

One way in which globalization processes recently have become important for a

Caribbean country like St. Lucia is through international treaties that forge social and

economic cooperation between industrialized and developing countries. As a former

colony of the United Kingdom, St. Lucia has been included in European treaties to this


effect. The Treaty of Rome (1957) and the first and second Yaounde Conventions (1964

and 1971) were the first European agreements that annexed former colonies (especially

French colonies in Africa) to the European community following the second world war.

They did so by allowing for free trade between the EC and its associated states, and by

providing financial assistance for the latter (Frey-Wouters 1980). Although the stated

justification for this alliance was the social and economic development of the associated

states (Babarinde 1994), the arrangements clearly included a commercial agenda

(Hougassian-Rudovich 1984). Moreover, the conditions of the agreement differed

slightly from the Rome Treaty to Yaounde II. For instance, types of products to be

traded and the nature of financial and technical assistance (Hougassian-Rudovich 1984)

shifted, although the main principles of liberalized trade and financial assistance

remained the same.

The Rome and Yaounde treaties were followed by the Lome Convention in 1976.

Lome was based on similar principles to its predecessors, yet it included more features

and it also encompassed a wider group of participants on both sides of the link. While

the Yaounde agreement included six EC members, the Lome incorporated nine

(including now the UK). The number of associated states also increased to 46, reaching

beyond Africa to draw in Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) former colonies as well. Thus,

the Caribbean entered into these agreements about the same time that the United

Kingdom became a member of the European Community.

Like the treaties before it, Lome aimed to secure development of the former

European colonies via social and economic cooperation with the EC. Trade Cooperation


has remained one of the essential, indeed the first mentioned, "instruments" of ACP-EEC

cooperation in the Lome Convention. The doctrine states that this is a way to secure

trade advantages for the ACP States with the EEC, to increase ACP nations' access to

markets for their products, and to increase the flow of ACP exports to the EEC LOME

Convention 1989:65). In the free trade clauses, bananas were featured as one of the

principal agricultural trade products between EEC and ACP parties. Beyond free trade,

financial assistance and institutional support for industrial and technological development

were other primary provisions offered to developing nations who participated in the

Lome agreement (Frey-Wouters 1980:2).

Lome had a few distinguishing features from its predecessor agreements. Perhaps

the most significant is that it was a larger and more comprehensive plan in terms of its

scope and its membership. A bloc known as the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)

countries was created to represent the non-industrial side of the international partnership,

stretching the meaning and scope of this classification. The addition of Caribbean and

Pacific nations into the cooperative development web further engendered a relationship

between geographically and culturally distinct States.

Since the project's inception, there have been four Lome conventions to renew

and amend the agreement, the last one having been signed in 1989. With accelerating

European integration and the goal of liberalized trade within the community, maintaining

preferences for ACP countries currently is under debate. Countries such as Germany,

which traditionally have not imported bananas under preference arrangements, have a

disincentive to accept these arrangements in an integrated Europe (Neff and Rainey n.d.).

And, while ACP (especially the Caribbean) countries lobby for their preferred place on

the EC market, Latin American producers are pressing for the complete adoption of free

trade on the European market (Kairi Consultants & Agrocon LTD 1993;Nurse and

Sandiford 1995).

Rapid change is taking place during this international negotiation process. In July

1993 the EC passed the New Banana Regime, representing a compromise for all

contenders. It guaranteed trade preferences for ACP producers up to afixed (as opposed

to the previous unlimited) volume of bananas (127,000 tons/annum for Caribbean

nations) and charged a 20% tariff for Latin American countries on the first two million

tons of bananas imported and 170% tariff on bananas traded beyond that amount (Kairi

Consultants Ltd. & Agrocon Ltd 1993). Debate over these regulations continued through

General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and Lome talks, turning on differing

perspectives about market liberalization and EEC integration.

Geest as Agent of Globalization

The debate over free trade and, more specifically, over the global market for

bananas, also involved United States' and UK transnational corporations with banana

operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. These companies voiced concern about

the development of EC market integration, taking the side of the nations from which they

traditionally buy and market bananas. At the same time, recent changes in their activities

suggest that although TNCs lobby in one direction, they are casting their trading nets

wider. With changing legislation, they are taking up production and/or marketing in

other regions, or perhaps attempting to get a foothold elsewhere, hoping to incorporate

the outside competition rather than beat it. As an example, the transnational operating in

St. Lucia extended its activities into Costa Rica within the past five years, while

Chiquita, operating out of Latin America, has tried to enter the Caribbean market.

It is significant how, over the decades of the 1970s to 1980s, Geest Industries has

changed its role as an intermediary between the UK market and the St. Lucian farm

fields, and also as a distributor with operation solely in the Caribbean, as stated in

Chapter Two. In the 1970s it moved out of its joint role in production and shipping, to

concentrate on transport from the Windwards. Not long after it strictly became a buyer

and distributor of Windward bananas, Geest Industries took on plantation production and

transport in Costa Rica. The timing of these maneuvers coincided with market

developments in Europe in which a space for Latin American producers was opened.

The company's choices wedded with global economic changes enabled it to secure profits

by working with a Latin American supplier nation.

In his discussion of the banana industry in neighboring Dominica, Trouillot

(1988) lays out the national context and conditions that helped Geest rise to prominence

since the 1950s. According to him, the company was made into a viable and profitable

British transnational due to the specific features of its operations in the Caribbean. This

included: 1)controlling the price that Windward Island farmers received for their

bananas, and 2)invoking the "peasant labor process" --a cheap form of labor use that

allowed the company to forego the responsibilities typically held by an employer.

Looking at data showing the extent and distribution of Geest's profits between 1976 and

1980, Trouillot (1988) asserts that Geest's activities in the Caribbean, essentially financed

by the labor of Windward peasants, subsidized the company's growth and diversification

in the U.K. With banana trading representing the single greatest revenue generator for

the company, banana profits permitted Geest Industries to diversify its corporate

operations into other areas. This diversification process took place at a time when Geest

had ceased its involvement in banana plantation production and had moved solely into

distribution of the crop. Thus, Trouillot suggests that Geest was able to diversify after

the initial decade of banana trading and production from the Windwards.

This point is important for my globalization thesis because it implies that ties

stretching across the globe served to distance those connected (e.g. the U.K., Geest, and

banana growers) in terms of income and power. However, by emphasizing local labor

processes, Trouillot overlooks the international, causal factors that helped Geest to thrive,

and that further engendered globalization. For instance, the 1970s also was the moment

when the Lome convention came into effect, freeing up opportunities for trade between

former British colonies and the UK. Geest switched its status in the Windward Islands at

a time when international legislation made it possible for trading between the EEC and

ACP to become an increasingly lucrative business. The linkages and terms created by

Lome set the stage for transnational agents such as Geest to readily profit from the

transfer of commodities between the Caribbean and the UK. Thus, the Lome

Convention added a significant piece to the international environment that permitted

Geest to become a profiteering agent of globalization in the form of a transnational

corporation. I suggest that even if social conditions in the Windwards (e.g. a large

volume of peasant producers with consumption patterns that included bananas) were in

place to facilitate Geest's concentration into marketing, it is not coincidental that the

move occurred when the Lome accord provided a favorable international setting.

Similarly, Geest's extension into the production and distribution of bananas from

Costa Rica can be seen as an attempt to profit from the changing international trade

legislation. This is so because, at the same time that the European Community was

negotiating to allow a greater volume of Latin American bananas onto the EC market

(which, it was feared, might displace Windward bananas), Geest extended itself into

production and trade from Latin America despite competition between that region and

the Caribbean. As a result, Geest became an agent for two competing banana producing

sources, protecting its ability to continue to profit in the trade of bananas.

Geest and the Contract

The changes that Geest underwent in its role with the Windward Islands,

especially those since the 1970s period, were legally supported by the 1976 contract with

the Windwards for the sale of bananas to Geest Industries. This contract specified the

roles of the various island institutions involved in the banana industry and designated

Geest as shipping agent. Contracts with Geest since 1954 were shorter term and

considered null and void by 1976. Thus, from 1976 until the present, all legal

considerations and negotiations for the relationship between the producer institutions of

all four Windward Islands and the transnational marketing body have been through this

document and its several amendments.

Whereas Lome is a multinational agreement that constructs an international

context for securing global connections, the contract can be seen as the legal document

that helps bind the Caribbean to the United Kingdom and that establishes national

conditions for being a part of, and enhancing transnational linkages through trade.

Moreover, just as Lome had a hidden message of inequality between global "partners",

certainly the 1977 contract established an imbalance of power between shipping

company and producer associations in terms of rights and duties.

In the 1977 contract, the agreeing parties to the contract were Geest Industries,

the buying company, the St. Lucia Banana Grower Associations (SLBGA), and the

Windward Island Banana Association (WINBAN). The SLBGA and WINBAN agreed to

the monopsony arrangement whereby Geest was the sole buyer of Windward bananas,

while the company initially contracted to purchase bananas solely from the Windward

Islands. All three parties agreed that the United Kingdom would be the only market for

disposal of Windward bananas and diversion of fruit to another market required

consultation and mutual agreement. Of course, the ability to continually dispose of the

fruit on the U.K. market was ensured by Lome, but the presence of this clause in the

contract meant that the all contract signatories were willing to rely strictly on that market.

Although on the surface the contract appears to be a mutual accord, the notion of

an equal partnership between the three signatory institutions becomes questionable with a

deeper look at the clauses, their wording, and their implications. In his discussion of the

legal relationship between the Banana Growers' Association (BGA) (in Dominica) and

Geest, Trouillot (1988) suggested that the basis for the unequal distribution of power


between the two and the greater rights, and latitude that Geest enjoys, could be found in

the 1977 contract. Much of his argument was based on the fact that: 1) the Windward

contractual parties (e.g.. WINBAN and the BGAs) actually served as disguised agents of

the transnational rather than as representatives of the Windward industry, and 2) Geest's

obligations as buyer were vaguely laid out in the contract, ultimately casting doubt on the

company's intention to buy all banana produced at all times.

In the first case, it is important to remember that, despite WINBAN's role as

representative of the island BGAs, the institution was created by Geest. Initially the

buying company created WINBAN as a research and technical advisory body, but

eventually it enlarged the institution's role. In 1976, WINBAN was appointed by Geest

as contract negotiator on behalf of the Windward Islands in their relationship with the

buying company.' Furthermore, while it was contractually expected that WINBAN

(again on behalf of the Windwards) and Geest would consult on market and research

matters, the possibilities for an actual decision-making partnership seemed unlikely. For

example, as Trouillot (1988) notes, the WINBAN staffing designated for consultation

was minimal compared to Geest's.

In the second case, other areas of the contract granted Geest greater room to

determine how, when and at what cost bananas would be produced, sold, and bought.

This included features such as the pricing system and the weekly schedule for buying,

selling and producing bananas. Both of these were laid down by Geest in a non-fixed

way. That is, the price was set according to a changing measure known as the Green

Wholesale Price (GWP), that Geest formulated, and that could be altered on the days of

banana sales. "Market conditions" were given as the reasons for such changes. The

BGAs and the small farmers who produced for them had no bargaining power in these

areas, according to the contract (Trouillot 1988).

Ambiguity in contract wording is one significant reason why this imbalance of

power could exist. For example, Trouillot (1988:146) pointed out that, while the

contract stated that the company would accept all bananas of exportable quality, the

standards for measuring quality were not defined. "In short," as Trouillot (1988:146)

says, "the...[BGA] must deliver the bananas to Geest who may accept or reject them at

will." In this way, Geest protected itself against risks; it could manipulate the volume of

bananas it would buy at any given time, by claiming that bananas were sub-standard and

rejecting them for sale. Geest's power was further exemplified by the fact that the

company is the one that provided the islands with information (inaccessible to the

average grower) on the quality demands of the UK market. It was therefore able to set

the quality standards in the Windwards and also to change those standards on a continual

basis, without being questioned.

Since 1977, there have been several amendments to the contract, many that have

loosened Geest's obligation to the Windward Islands, allowing the company to bring

bananas obtained from other sources onto the UK market. However, the Windward

Islands have remained bound to Geest as its sole buyer. During my research,

negotiations with Geest were taking place, and there also was talk of a possibility of

dismantling the exclusive buyer clause. Yet, it is significant that before the exclusivity

instrumental in linking St. Lucia to the European market --a possibility created by

stipulations of the Lome Convention. Through its contracting strategies, the company

also has captured an inordinate amount of power in Eastern Caribbean banana production

by craftily gaining control of local institutions and influencing local policy.

In addition, Geest's power to ensure the fit of Windward Island bananas into the

UK was supplemented with actions and policies on the part of the St. Lucian state over

local institutions and producers. These included policies directly mandating how and

when banana production should take place, as well as the compulsory transfer of costly

and time-intensive banana production technologies. Working under these new schemes

has restricted growers possibilities. Indirectly, people have been encouraged to stay in

banana production due to such factors as the nation's relatively undiversified economy

and its policies that discourage the development of other economic (especially other

agricultural) activities. The consequences of working under these policies (especially

those that are legally prescribed) and restrictions are addressed in the next two chapters.


1. Information concerning the 1977 contract was obtained from WINBAN memoranda
regarding contract negotiations and from the contract itself.

2. Since 1967, the Act has undergone several amendments which include changes to the
board composition. In 1979, the board was made up of 13 persons of which 7 were
appointed by the Minister of Agriculture. Thus, at this time, the government had a
majority presence on the Board and this presence was undone in 1983.

3. To my knowledge there are no instances of WINBAN officials or the police actually
coming onto farmers' fields to direct their activities. The point is, however, that the law
was established in 1986 allowing for this to be a possibility. Other laws regarding the
banana industry that seemingly lie dormant on the books have been used unexpectedly as

when the government dissolved the SLBGA board of directors in 1988 and again in
1993. This is a point made by the leaders of the current farmers' movement.

4. Because this figure only refers to those contributing to the National Insurance Scheme
it does not include all employed and employing persons in the country. Self-employed
persons are especially likely to be excluded from this figure.

Table 3.1

Market. SLBGA and Grower Prices of Bananas. 1983-1994'

Year Avg. Stg.
In EC$2

1983 4.05
1984 3.50
1985 3.48
1986 3.93

1987 4.28
1988 4.78

19894 N.A.
1990 N.A.



1992 4.73




.89 57.50
.88 61.81





'Price in E.C. cents per pound.
2Reflects the value of British Pound Sterling in EC$
3The Green Wholesale Price is the market-related average wholesale price (Nurse and
Sandiford 1995). The data shown in this table were taken from sources where citing the
value in British Pounds per ton. I have converted these into EC dollars per pound.
4Data for 1988 and 1989 were taken from a source not recording the British Pound to EC
dollar exchange rate. I have therefore used the rate from 1988; this will affect the
accuracy of the GWP, but not the prices paid to the SLBGA and to growers.
Source: Ministry of Finance, Statistics and Negotiating 1988:151,163; Ministry of
Finance Statistics and Negotiating 1993: 88; Windward Island Banana Association




Table 3.2

Banana Production Figures in St. Lucia. 1960-1991

Year Volume (in tons)
1960 21,329
1961 30,338
1962 37,102
1963 39,983
1964 45,695
1965 60,400
1966 63,669
1967 53,016
1968 53,912
1969 65,726
1970 41,057
1971 42,632
1971 46,998
1973 35,157
1974 44,130
1975 31,617
1976 43,699
1977 39,646
1978 50,419
1979 46,006
1980 28,550
1981 42,813
1982 41,669
1983 53,586
1984 64,367
1985 80,758
1986 108,932
1987 91,486
1988 133,043
1989 124,542
1990 133,131
1991 99,204
1992 132,854
1993 120,129

Sources: Data for 1960-1991 from: Kairi Consultants & Agrocon Ltd (1993); Data for
1992-1993 from: Windward Island Banana Association files.

clause was under serious scrutiny, Geest had first weakened its responsibilities to the


The Banana Growers Association Act and the Banana Act

The other legal parameters that steer the banana industry in St. Lucia are those set

by the Banana Growers Association Act and the Banana Act. The first deals with the

legal functions and responsibilities of the SLBGA, while the second legally declares the

manner of conduct within the industry in general, and of St. Lucian banana growers in

particular. Both of these documents place the St. Lucian government squarely in the

decision making of the banana industry, assuring it a role in steering the progression of

the industry at all times. They also suggest an underlying connection between the

government and Geest.

The Banana Growers Association Act came into effect in 1967. In reference to

growers' rights and responsibilities, it declares: 1) a banana producer's right to

membership in the Association and of an appeal to a decision to reject his/her

membership application; 2) the varieties of bananas that s/he may sell to the SLBGA, 3)

that members of the Association may receive the returns (minus mandatory Association

deductions) from their sale, and 4) that they may sell bananas only to the SLBGA in the

state of St. Lucia. The bulk of the document, however, delineates the duties and areas of

conduct for the Association. It refers to the selection, and roles of grower delegates in 46

district branches of the Association, and of the Associations' board of directors. It further

lays out the duties of groups and individuals associated with the SLBGA who will

control the affairs of the Association (e.g.. the Board of Directors, the Chairman of the

Board, Minister of Agriculture and an Advisory Committee).

To the extent that the government can intervene in the direction and status of the

Association, the SLBGA does not function as an association in the popular understanding

of the word. That is to say, the amended 1967 Act is the legal structure guaranteeing that

the Association is not run by growers. Rather, it allows an open space for government

decision-making power. While the document has been revised several times, the greatest

number of amendments to 18 of the Act's 50 sections were applied in 1990 when the

areas concerning the "Board of Directors" and "Management and Control of the

Association" underwent significant revision. Issues of the role of government in the

institution and the amount of government representatives on the Board of Directors had

been an ongoing battle in the SLBGA's development that re-surfaced in the late 1980s

and took on a new character in the final analysis.

Most of the 1988 and 1990 amendments grew out of recommendations following

the abrupt dissolution of the Association's Board of Directors and a subsequent inquiry

into the banana industry. The conclusions of that Inquiry were that "a great number of

reforms need to be instituted...to engender the development of an objective, professional

and business-like Board" (Yankey, Henderson, Liverpool, Aitchison and Eaton 1990:1).

This led to several recommendations from the Review Committee concerning the Board

and Management of the SLBGA, including that the Board be expanded from nine to

eleven persons, five of whom would be government appointed, and that the chairman

have "considerable experience in the successful direction or management of a

commercial or business enterprise..." (Yankey, Henderson, Liverpool, Aitchison and

Eaton 1990:13).

The changes called for by the Inquiry granted the government and government

representatives greater powers in the running of the Association, advocated running the

Association more like a "business", and thus rendered the decision-making structure of

the Association less democratic. Since 1988, the Minister of Agriculture makes more

decisions concerning the Board composition and maintenance than any other person,

including the Board's chairman and the growers. Moreover, the changes allow a greater

proportion of board directors to be appointed by the Minister, as opposed to being elected

by growers at the Annual Conference of Delegates. Following the Committee's

recommendations, there was a 1990 amendment to a 1983 clause of the 1967 Act, stating

that five of the eleven board directors would be government appointees. This raised the

appointees' input to 46 percent from 33 percent on a board that previously had been made

up of nine directors, with three appointees.2 Persons appointed to these positions are

those who the Minister considers qualified in "the subject of agriculture, banking, trade,

finance, business management and accountancy and other related subjects" (GOSL

1967:15 emphasis mine). Furthermore, since 1990 it has become the Minister's duty to

appoint the chairman of the board.

In 1988 two other significant clauses were added to the Act that created a

privileged place for government in the Association. First, it was established that the

Minister of Agriculture could postpone the date of the Annual Conference of Delegates

and that the new conference would be held "on such date as the Minister deems

appropriate" (GOSL 1967:12). Nowhere else in the document are provisions made for

any other representative of the Association to postpone or reschedule the conference.

Indeed, if neither the board's chairman, deputy chairman, nor any of its directors are

present at the conference, the delegates might choose one amongst them to preside over

the meeting.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the Minister maintained the power to

dissolve the Board of directors and to appoint an interim board if he deemed that the

Board had abused its powers or defaulted on its duties (GOSL 1967:22). Again, no other

person could dismantle the Board or the Board's director. Since 1988, the Board of

Directors has been dissolved by the Minister on two occasions.

Thus, changes in the mandates of the Act can be seen as political maneuvers, even

though they have economic justification. With each amendment that affected the

composition of the Association's board and altered the role of board members, the

structure of the Association also was transformed in terms of political representation. As

an example, in 1988, the elected Board was represented overwhelmingly by the St.

Lucian Labour Party (SLP), the opposition party to the reigning government party, the

United Workers' Party (UWP). After passing legislation allowing the government to

dissolve the Board, the SLP power in the SLBGA was undone and replaced by an interim

board of government appointees (hence, UWP supporters). By the time the tenure of this

interim board was completed, the 1990 amendments were in place. From there forward,

these changes allowed the Board to be heavily represented by, and the Association to be

driven by, UWP government appointees and ideologies.


Like the 1967 Act, the Banana Protection and Quality Control Act (or the Banana

Act) is another legal provision that governs operations concerning the banana industry.

Yet, unlike the 1967 Act, the Banana Act governs the conduct of individual banana

producers, rather than the conduct of those who operate the Association. The Banana

Act is primarily concerned with identifying production methods that growers must follow

in order to ensure that fruit quality is maintained. In great detail, it lays out the methods

to which producers must adhere for growing, harvesting, packing, and transporting

bananas. Not following prescribed production formulae is declared a legal offense.

While the Banana Act, as a St. Lucian law, may appear to be the work of the

independent state, I would argue that it is actually the work of Geest Industries and the

St. Lucian government together. As Trouillot (1988) has argued, Geest works through

local institutions (such as the SLBGA), and exerts a disguised means of control over

internal aspects of the national banana industry. I would amend Trouillot's point by

suggesting that the company works through and with local institutions and the state.

Indeed, the Banana Act is an excellent example of Geest's power, hidden behind the state.

The Act designates WINBAN as the lawful Authority to inspect farmers' practices

on their fields. Remembering that WINBAN was created by Geest (as a Windward

institution), it is easy to comprehend how Geest can continue to influence the island's

production in a direction conducive to its aims. I would suggest that having WINBAN as

farm inspector and quality controller would be in the interests of Geest since,

theoretically, this would ensure that bananas are delivered to the company under the

direction and surveillance of an institution that the company founded and molded.

The state, in fact, legitimizes and reinforces Geest's interests by being the actor

that places WINBAN (rather than the itself, for instance) as the ultimate expert and

enforcer. Moreover, by putting WINBAN in the position of Authority, this allows Geest

to intervene and it also veils the appearance of both Geest and the state. Yet, the state

also is a critical agent operating alongside Geest, because it assigns the national police

force to assist WINBAN in farm surveillance.3

Making it Difficult to (Not) Produce Bananas

All the time they are coming up with a new system and a grower [has] to
do it. ... and they still don't pay much.
--a banana grower

Using legislation to direct growers' activities has been one means of ensuring that

St. Lucian bananas fit into the European market. This national strategy has been

complemented with other policies that enticed St. Lucians into banana growing,

manipulated the volume of bananas (and other crops) that they produce during different

seasons, and that controlled the methods that they used to produce the crop. All policies

are sanctioned, if not directly implemented, by the government and reflect the industry's

tendency to exclude the banana grower from determining how to conduct his or her

agricultural production. Three implicit and explicit policy areas are particularly

noteworthy in terms of how they ensured that growers will produce bananas, as a priority

over other activities.


First, the general structure of the nations's economy reflects an encouragement of

agricultural production to the neglect of other areas. Agriculture represents 13 percent of

the Gross Domestic Product, second only to trade (primarily in agriculture) at 16 percent

of GDP (Economist Intelligence Unit 1994-59:30). In 1994, over 60 percent of foreign

exchange earnings were in banana exports (United States Department of State 1994: 3).

Similarly, despite the fact that 60 percent of the population resides in cities or towns,

employment is highest in agriculture where 37 percent of workers are employed (United

States Department of State 1994:1).

Other important sectors of the economy include manufacturing (12.5 percent of

GDP), tourism (10 percent of GDP) and construction (7.5 percent of GDP). According

to government statistics of employees and employers contributing to the National

Insurance Scheme, the construction, tourist, and manufacturing sectors employ 17, 15

and 9 percent of workers respectively (Ministry of Finance, Statistics and Negotiating

1993).4 Additionally, possibilities for local employment can be uncertain in these

sectors as with the potential for manufacturing enterprises to unexpectedly close

operations after tax concessions have ceased, or for the foreign-owned hotels to employ

an upper-level staffing of expatriates.

Second, banana production in St. Lucia also has been encouraged by non-policies

as in the fragile diversification program where the term "diversification" has been part of

the rhetoric but has not become a reality. Especially since the advent of European

unification, politicians and policy makers frequently suggested that dependency on

bananas needed to be avoided, while the practical efforts supporting this claim remained


A study of diversification programs in the country showed that inadequate

measures existed to ensure the availability of markets for crops such as vegetables,

plantain, root crops, and citrus. For instance, farmers were selected to participate in

national programs designed to substitute imports with locally produced crops, and to

engender "self-sufficiency" in certain food crops (GOSL 1990:26). The programs also

provided technical assistance and advice for the production of non-traditional crops.

However, according to an audit report of the Ministry of Agriculture (GOSL

1990) several obstacles impeded the successful execution of these programs. Included in

these were insufficient extension staffing and funding for extension agents, insufficient

market outlets for crops, competition due to continued importation of crops selected for

diversification programs, and lack of integration of selected farmers into the goals and

purpose of the diversification program. This failure of the diversification thrust reflects a

true interest in other areas of the island's agricultural economy, namely in bananas.

The 1985 farmer vehicle program is another example of the policy pendulum that

pulls producers into banana production, and then makes it difficult for them to maintain

themselves. This program offered tax concessions and accessible bank loans to

producers on pick-up truck purchases. According to the records of the Ministry of

Agriculture, Lands, Forests and Fisheries, between 1985 and 1994, 1347 vehicles were

purchased by farmers under this arrangement. Such a move, as many warned, rendered

farmers dependent on banana production so that they could pay off the loan. It is

important also to consider that this was a time when some farmers were praised for

increasing their living standards by building new homes.

The point is not that growers should avoid raising their style of living or that they

are trying to live beyond their means. Rather, it is that their place in the banana industry

has been cemented with policies and non-policies that force them to follow certain

(expensive and time consuming) practices and that encourage improving one's lifestyle

by means that create long-term risks. In sum, growers have been positioned so that they

will continue to produce for a global market.

Third, post-harvest technology, as a primary focus of WINBAN research

activities, has developed rapidly in the banana industry and increasingly it places more

demands on growers' time. Within the industry, emphasis has been on devising methods

by which the highest quality of bananas is ensured from cutting to sale point (to Geest).

This has meant a high turn-over of post-harvest techniques, with at least one change per

five year period since the 1970s. The realities are reflected in common producer

parlance that emphasizes the recent work increase associated with cultivating bananas.

[We] didn't have so much problem [with] quality before. People come more
exploited in this industry. We didn't have to deflower. It's totally different
[now]. .. .I feel the salary is not enough for the amount of work.

More work was involved due to the technology developments, and the transfer of

more of the harvest requirements to growers. For instance, in the 1960s, producers

transported bananas by "stemming" which meant shipping whole stems of bananas cut

directly ("selected") off of the tree (ULG Consultants Ltd 1975) These were "headed" or

transported on pads placed on someone's head and taken to a central boxing station where

the bananas were demanded (broken down from stems to hands of bananas), washed,

dipped in fungicide and boxed (Malins and St. Rose 1994). The boxing station was

operated and staffed by the island Banana Growers Associations.

In 1978, however, the technique of demanding and boxing bananas directly on

growers' fields was introduced and by 1980 it was tested as a viable method (Joseph and

Borton 1989). It was believed that the boxing station operations were contributing to

damage to the fruit, especially to the development of crown rot (rotting at the crown of

banana hands). Thus, washing and packing bananas at the boxing station was replaced

with field packing, in which a latex pad was placed at the crown of banana hands (instead

of the fungicide dip). This was a pivotal point in post-harvest technology because it

moved the majority of activities from the centralized boxing and selecting station to the


As observers of the new banana transport and harvest system wrote, moving from

the boxing station to the field meant that the job of selection and demanding was [passed]

from the boxing plant selector to the farmer" (ULG Consultants Ltd 1975:109-110). Not

only was this method heralded as cutting down on spoilage due to boxing station

handling; it also was deemed a way to speed up the harvest process (ULG Consultants

1975). However, what it sped up was the work at the boxing plant (now reduced to

assembling boxes for sale to growers), while it certainly increased the amount of time

that a producer had to spend on his or her field on harvest day. It also meant more costs

to individual producers who had to purchase boxes, build field sheds, and perhaps pay

additional labor.

By 1986, the complete conversion to field packing was achieved. Growers were

assigned registration numbers that were attached to their boxes, as a further means to

survey the quality of individual bananas. Other mandatory changes accompanied this

transition from the 1970s into the 1980s, including new carton technologies, plastic

carton linings, and plastic coverings for banana plants.

Yet again, in 1991 a transition was made into a post-harvest system known as

Mini Wet Pak. Researchers and market analysts stated that the Crown Pad was unsightly

for consumer tastes, and thus the system already underway in Jamaica since the late

1980s was adopted (Malins and St. Rose 1994). With Mini Wet Pak post-harvest

practices were maintained on individual farms, but washing bananas on the field in a

fungicide solution became an added feature to the process. The increased steps involved

in this process (described in more detail in Chapter Four) rendered it virtually impossible

for a farmer to work without additional labor. For whereas previously small growers

could field pack by themselves, having to carry and wash the bananas as an added task

became too cumbersome and spatially dispersed to handle alone. When we consider that

under Crown Pad, banana production was already a labor intensive task where 61% of

total variable production costs were labor expenses (Alexander-Louis 1993), it is very

easy to see how the additional time requirement of Mini Wet Pak would intensify

growers' work.

It is important to note that these three policy developments parallel two

significant trends. First, the transition of the transnational company out of plantation

production was occurring at the same time that technologies were requiring more of

producers and that policies were establishing them firmly in banana production, almost to

the point of no return. This meant that by the time it was becoming more expensive and

demanding to produce bananas, Geest had washed its hands of production.

Second, prices for bananas accelerated in the 1980s and the price paid to growers

rose above an average of 30 cents per pound for the first time (see Table 3.1). This was a

time when many people quickly took up banana growing. Because of the mounting

returns, production soared (see Table 3.2). Loans and added costs of production

certainly would have felt less burdensome at this time. Consequently, price increases and

policy developments encouraged people to grow bananas, although the work was

becoming more intensive, a no consequence to Geest whose abandonment of plantation

ownership meant that it no longer bore production expenses.


The processes that engender integration do not come about through the

independent actions of a dominant institution or actor such as the transnational

corporation, Geest. Rather, the preceding discussion has shown how three critical agents

are rendering St. Lucia part of a reorganized global economy (via the banana industry):

the Lome Convention --a supra-national agreement, Geest Industries --a transnational

shipping company, and the St. Lucian state. Geest Industries has been especially



In the last chapter I demonstrated the ways in which measures of integrating

bananas into the EEC have intensified at the level of the state and Geest Industries,

further relaxing the transnational's responsibilities, increasing the state's right to

dominate growers, and finally muting growers' voice in the industry. By presenting the

case of Morne Verte, a banana producing region of St. Lucia, I follow up the point in

Chapter Three with a discussion of the banana production schedule. As a site where own

account activities predominate historically and where the presence of plantation

dominance has not been a factor, Morne Verte represents a community where the value

of autonomy is evident. Its importance does not emerge merely in cultural discourse but

also in historical and contemporary experience. Thus, in this chapter my argument is

that, despite believing in and experiencing the importance of working autonomously,

banana producers in Morne Verte follow a production routine that is largely outside of

their control. This discord in work practices and cultural models of work is intensified

with the development of new production technologies and methods that place more

responsibilities on growers and that lock them into routinized activities that they do not



Laying out a brief description of Morne Verte and presenting some census data in

the first section, I emphasize the importance of independent occupations in the

community. Next I discuss the significance of working autonomously (for oneself)

according to Morne Verte cultural models of work. In these models, people stress the

freedom and benefit they gain by being self-employed rather than working for wages.

These notions can be contrasted with the data presented in the next two sections where I

lay out the banana production schedule in which growers operate. Despite the theoretical

basis of banana production as an independent activity, the scheduling of harvest activities

shows that producers have little room to organize their activities and thus to work for

themselves in the way that they prefer. Consequently, they are not achieving the cultural

value that they attach to this work activity.

My understanding of the banana production schedule and the socio-economic

characteristics of Morne Verte banana growers is based on my data collection over 13

months. The argument in this chapter, as well as the next, is informed by data that I

collected during six months (June-September) in 1994 when, with the help of my

assistant, I administered a questionnaire to a total of 60 farm heads in Morne Verte. This

included 12 former farmers and 48 current former, although six questionnaires were

excluded from quantitative analysis because the information was either incomplete or

unreliable. Due to a tropical storm in August, I was unable to finish collecting data from

three current growers with whom I had started the questionnaire. Additionally, with

three other current farm heads, the data were contradictory often enough that I excluded

the questionnaire data altogether. Thus, I was left with a total of 54 reliable

questionnaire responses for 43 current growers and 11 former growers. For those sources

that were incomplete, I have used the information provided for qualitative analysis.

In Te Riche and Espwe I determined the banana growing households after

carrying out a household census. From this census of 142 households, I randomly

sampled banana producing households for participation in the survey. I employed

different sampling methods in Lavibel and Ti Bois in order to save time. There I

sampled every third household. I used this strategy based on the results from the census

in Te Riche and Espwe which indicated that approximately one third of households were

banana growing households. Non-banana growing households were skipped, while

those with a resident banana producing farm head were given the questionnaire on the

spot, if they agreed. A total of 30 farm heads in the first two communities responded to

the questionnaire, while 30 responded in the last two. In some cases, the farm head was

not available or preferred that his partner respond to the questions. It was always males

who were not able to respond, rather than female farm heads.

Independence and Experience in Morne Verte

Morne Verte is located within the Mabouya Valley, one of St. Lucia's three major

banana producing valleys and former sites of plantation agriculture (See Figure 4.1). In

this valley lies one of the country's primary large estates, occupying over 2,500 miles of

land. As such, the Mabouya Valley possesses many of the well-known historical features

of West Indian societies including the presence of a large scale plantation surrounded by

communities of small scale producers and estate laborers. Historically, vast tracts of




f I

Figure 4.1
Map of St. Lucia Showing Location of Mabouya Valley

Source: Map reproduced from Organization of American States (1991)

0 TI A TI/



valley lands were designated for plantation production while most of the region's

residents were attached to the estate as laborers. At a peak period as many as 1,500

persons worked on the estate (Organization of American States 1991). It was common

practice for these workers either to squat on lands peripheral to the plantation and/or to

gain permission to use uncultivated land (Organization of American States 1991),

attesting to the interdependence of plantation and valley residents.

As a community lying outside of the estate boundaries, but still within the limits

of the valley, Morne Verte is a unique case. It is concentrated in the north eastern

portion of the valley and comprises four individual settlements that I have renamed: Ti

Bois, Te Riche, Lavibel and Espwe. Given their residential location, residents of Morne

Verte traditionally have not worked on the valley's main estate. For those who were

agricultural laborers, two medium sized estates in Morne Verte provided a source of

employment for residents between (at least) 1951 to 1979-86. Run by British and East

Indian proprietors, these estates occupied much of the flat, fertile land in Ti Bois and

Espwe, totaling approximately 100 acres and 170 acres respectively of the area's

approximately 1500 total acreage (GOSL and Organization of American States 1983:1).

Much of the other agricultural lands in Morne Verte have been held in small

independently operated holdings (Organization of American States 1991).

Thus, despite the presence of medium sized estates in the area, my own research

suggests that Morne Verte has been a community where small scale, own-account

production on private lands has been a central feature of the area's agricultural economy.

This is in contradistinction to other areas of the Mabouya Valley where independent

cultivation may very well have accompanied wage work, but where squatting or using

land by permission was more prevalent (Organization of American States 1991). It is my

conjecture that, prior to 1986, laboring for the estate was common only in Ti Bois. By

contrast, I suspect that residents of the three other areas worked as independent producers

on their own family' or rented lands in neighboring locations.

In the approximately four major agricultural areas where Morne Verte residents

are likely to farm today, much of the land appears to have been passed on as family land.

According to data gathered in my questionnaire, most of the parcels in these areas are

held either as family land or by formal ownership (while rental and squatting, for

instance, are less common). Some residents over 50 years of age also remember either

their parents or themselves having worked these lands independently with legal rights to

land use (either by family rights or formal title) prior to the 1950s. It is therefore likely

that most Morne Verte dwellers traditionally have survived as producers on family land

that eventually may have been transferred by formal title.

The late 1970s marked further changes in the potential for independent

cultivation in Morne Verte. The proprietors of the two largest estates in the community

began sub-dividing and selling their holdings into parcels of no more than 50 acres but

averaging 5.5 acres. The subdivision of both estates was complete in 1986. When the

Espwe Estate was sold, buyers used the land primarily to build homes. Consequently,

what was once a large tract of agricultural land up until the late 1970s, today is a

residential settlement situated alongside a primary road.

Those who moved to Espwe in the 1970s probably came from Te Riche or

Lavibel and had acquired money to purchase land and build homes in Espwe from

working as farmers and in other wage occupations. In Ti Bois, the former estate sold in

1986 was broken up into 17 parcels, and largely has been put into smallholder

agricultural production. According to many of the area's residents, this has transformed

Ti Bois from a largely wage working community to one based on more own-account

activities in agriculture.2 Similarly, the Organization of American States (1991:40),

states that, based on its land survey, Morne Verte residents commonly operated land

under family inheritance arrangements (i.e. family land).

According to the 1990 St. Lucian population census, the total population of

Morne Verte is 1434, with a greater number of females than males (Department of

Statistics 1990). There also is a very young age structure, with almost one-half of the

population below or above working age (i.e., below 15 years or above 69 years). Most

Morne Verte residents own their own homes (86%), while fewer (53%) own the land on

which their homes are built. An overwhelming majority of these houses (66%) were

built after 1970. The average income is approximately $13,000 E.C.

The general demographic characteristics of Morne Verte residents sampled in my

survey (household members ) are presented in Tables 4.1-4.3 These show that there are

more females than males in the sample, that 64% of the total population is of working

age, and that a majority have not completed more than a primary school education.

Table 4.1

Population Distribution of Sampled Morne Verte Farm Household Residents
by Gender and Working Age12

Total Population

Total Male

Total Female Total Working Age
124 160

'Official working age in St. Lucia includes persons between 15 and 69 years of age,
although in practice employed persons are not restricted to this grouping.
2Data are missing for 13 cases all of which are infant children.
Source: Based on data compiled by Karla Slocum

Table 4.2

Age Distribution of Sampled Morne Verte Household Residents1


Percent of Total

114 cases of the total sample of 254 household members are missing. In most of these
cases, farm head respondents to the questionnaire were not aware of the ages of all
household members.
Source: Based on data compiled by Karla Slocum

1-14 years

Table 4.3

Level of Educational Attainment of Sampled Morne Verte Household Residents
Above 15 Years of Age1

Educational Level Number Percent of Total

None 11 8.2
Primary School (not completed) 14 10.5
Primary School (completed) 76 56.7
Secondary School (not completed) 11 8.2
Secondary School (completed) 18 13.4
Post-Secondary 4 3.0
Total 134 100.00

144 cases of the total sample of 254 household members are missing. In most of these
cases, farm head questionnaire respondents were not aware of the educational level of all
household members.
Source: Based on data compiled by Karla Slocum

When the population is further broken down by farm heads, the data show that

there are far more males than female growers and that the average age of all producers is

44 years (Table 4.4). Like the general population, most also only have completed

primary school (Table 4.5). In terms of farm resources, the average land size among all

(current and former) farm heads is 7 acres (Table 4.6). Additionally, as shown in Table

4.7, owning land is the most common type of land tenure although family land is also a

significant means of land holding.

Table 4.4

Age Distribution by Gender of Sampled Farm Heads in Morne Verte





Joint Heads




Source: Based on data compiled by Karla Slocum

Table 4.5

Level of Educational Attainment of Sampled Farm Heads in Morne Verte1

Educational Level
Primary School (not completed)
Primary School (completed)
Secondary School (not completed)
Secondary School (completed)

'Data are missing for three cases.
Source: Data compiled by Karla Slocum


Percent of Total

Table 4.6

Land Size of Sampled Farm Heads in Morne Verte1

Acreage Number2 Percent of Total
1 9 17.7
2 10 19.6
3 6 11.8
4 3 5.9
5 9 17.7
6 2 4.0
7 3 5.9
9 3 5.9
14 1 1.9
17 1 1.9
18 1 1.9
28 1 1.9
30 1 1.9
56 1 1.9

Total 51 100.00

'Data are missing for 5 cases where size of land parcels was unknown.
2Numbers can include more than one parcel per banana grower.
Source: Based on data compiled by Karla Slocum

According to preliminary data from the 1991 population census, the region of

Morne Verte is largely comprised of own-account workers who represent 46 percent of

all workers.3 While this can include farmers, shop-owners, or tradespeople, I believe that

most own-account workers are agriculturalists. Indeed, there are 258 full-time banana

growers in the region, or thirty percent of the working age population.4 My own

household census of Espwe and Te Riche shows that 81 percent of all households have at

least one resident banana grower (full or part-time) and 67 percent of the area's working

population is involved in own-account agriculture (including farming of banana and non-

banana crops).5 The other forms of employment for Morne Verte residents include:

employees for private businesses (e.g. factory workers --especially garment factories,

store clerks and employed trade workers), civil servants and self-employed shop owners

or small business operators. However, that independent banana production predominates

as an income-earning (sometimes complemented with other work activities) underscores

the firm base of independent work activities in the area.

Banana Production and Autonomy of Work

If you work for someone else you wouldn't push yourself. I wouldn't do
more work for you
--a Morne Verte banana grower

In Morne Verte, notions about working autonomously, contrasted with ideas

about working for an employer, are linked to a belief that banana production, as an

independent task, is good work. This belief is almost mystifying when considered

against the flagrant critiques of the banana industry that are heard in the households and

on the streets and fields of the area. Vehemently, the community's producers complain

that the price is too low, the work increasingly harder, and the industry full of corruption

and mistrust. Almost universally, they are clear that growers are not now receiving a

benefit from the hours spent producing bananas. Yet still, for them, banana production is

good work. The benefit lies in its status as an independent occupation, and hence its

association with autonomy of work.

To illustrate the important concept of autonomy in work, producers always

contrast working for oneself with working for another, showing how one situation is

about freedom and the other about restrictions and insecurity. In independent farming,

they talk about the ability to set their own work schedules, go on the field at the hours

they prefer, work intensively to get more out of their work or be able to take time off as

they desire. Explaining the belief, many growers put it the way this grower did:

I can leave here anytime... .I don't have to wake up early. [But] if I work
for someone, the person tells me I have to work from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Banana production thus is an especially valued form of independent production because

it is conceived as an occupation that permits someone to work according to his or her

own schedule.

Freedom of work not only entails self-determination of activities, but also the

ability to make money for oneself and the ability to have the profits go into one's own

pocket. Producers complain that when working for wages the profit goes to the

employer. Additionally, wage working is equated with vulnerability given the potential

for job loss according to the determination of the employer. Underlying this cultural

concept of autonomy of work, then, is an objection to unequal terms that characterize

employer and employee relations. It is an implicit critique of power relations between

worker and "employer", and a statement about the connection between freedom and


According to Morne Verte ideologies, banana production circumvents the

complications and inequities associated with wage work. People believe that handling

one's own farm means that the work is guaranteed to continue and that (in the case of

bananas) the money also is steady. Power relations, between employer and employee,

also are considered to be non-existent since, as growers describe it, "you are your own

boss". The attraction of being your own boss means not risking job loss, not having the

profits out of your hands--in sum, not answering to an employer authority.

This perspective diverges from what Trouillot (1988) noted among banana

producers in Dominica. They related their interest in the occupation to the consumption

possibilities that banana represents in the advent of an inability to sell the crop. Such an

idea suggests that, in the Morne Verte model, it is not simply the utility of producing

bananas that is important but primarily the freedom and dignity that it affords a person.

A previous agricultural laborer who recently became a sharecropper-banana

producer implied that she took the share arrangement precisely because it was a chance

for her to work for herself and, by extension raise her family's dignity:

The reason why I am doing sharecroppingg] is because I see no progress in
it when I do it for others. Sometimes I get $40.00 but if the lady gave [the
land] to me I will get a better satisfaction when I work for myself. I am
the one going for the money and.... she [the land owner] gets half the
amount. Some people say that I give her too much money but I say, when
someone gives you something so that you can earn a living, you must not
cheat on the person... .Another reason why I took the bananas is because
I see that nobody in my family has their own farm except my uncle
... and I say every day that it is not wise to have all of us working for

It may seem contradictory to refer to a sharecropping arrangement as autonomous work

as this woman does in this statement. However, her remarks signal the importance of

having access to land as a means to working for oneself. Indeed, as she describes it, she

is sharecropping because she sees "no progress in it when [she does] itfor others."

possible angles. Consequently, there is less and less possibility for working

autonomously, especially in the way that growers state they prefer to work.


1. Family land is land that is communally owned by persons who have inherited the land
from a family member who has died intestate. It may or may not be worked jointly
among co-heirs, however, all heirs across several generations have rights to cultivate or
reside on the land. Many authors (cf. Barrow 1992, Besson and Momsen 1987) contend
that family land represents an institutional form that ensures access to land in contexts of
land scarcity.

2.My understanding of the recent history of Morne Verte is based on information
obtained in my questionnaires, interviews and from my thirteen months of interaction
with residents. It is in no way conclusive and needs to be backed up with further
historical research.

3. These data, not yet published, were compiled and supplied to me by persons in the
government statistics office.

4. According to the SLBGA files, there were 469 active banana growers in Morne Verte
in 1992. However, this figure would include all growers (full and part-time) while the
national census figure only incorporates full-time growers.

5. The household census that I conducted in Espwe and Te Riche included data on the
number of households, household size, land tenure for farms, and occupation status of the
household. The numbers concerning total households in the region differ from those in
the national census, most likely due to the fact that the boundaries for these four
communities are not fixed and my choice of boundaries undoubtedly differed from those
of the census takers. Additionally, my sampling methods were different in Ti Bois and
Lavibel where I did not carry out an entire household census.

6. It is my impression that some of these positions recently have acquired a higher status,
and they must be distinguished from the prestige attached to teaching or civil servant
occupations. The tourist industry quickly is being advanced as the most important (and
certainly most hopeful) sector in the country. Additionally, working in a factory or other
wage position, at the time of my stay, meant having secure work, or something to do.
Certainly, household residents who only assist on the farm of the farm/household head
would bypass farm work to take a waged position.


7. However, it probably was not occurring as frequently as usual during my research,
given growers' continued inability to secure these products from the BGA.


The working for oneself concept is underwritten by a wider, more pervasive idea

that people should take care of themselves. This is a concept that emerges both in

popular discourse as well as in popular practice. Many farming practices are organized

in ways that allow individuals to work independently, as opposed to working together in

the sense of a family farm. For instance, parents may parcel out portions of land to their

adult children rather than having them assist on the farm, while household residents also

are not obligated to work on the farm, especially if they find other work (including farm

labor on someone else's farm) that they can do for themselves. There is thus respect of

people's abilities to secure independent work on their own, and great latitude is granted to

household residents and/or family who pursue independent options.

People who do assist a parent or family member on the farm, may move in and

out of other occupations as they come available. They may work on the farm, leave

when another opportunity for employment comes along, and then return to the farm if

that job ends or if they have time available. In this case, they may not be working in

self-employment tasks, but the fact that they are securing work for themselves, with

which they can support themselves, renders this move acceptable and preferable. It is

further accepted that people should do what they can to be able to support themselves,

including maintaining a flexible spirit in order to take advantage of work options that

become available.

This ethic is akin to what Charles Carnegie (1983) has called "strategic

flexibility" a principle that guides working strategies in the Caribbean. It entails

"adjusting to whatever comes along. and. .building multiple options. .to hedge

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