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Dominica is about to improve on the traditional method of growing bananas, with a major irrigation scheme to be launched shortly.
Over the years, farmers here have depended on direct rainfall to produce the fruit, but - at least for some large plantations - mechanical watering of crops is on the way.
Dominica's Agriculture Minister, Vince Henderson, said design work on the US$5.9 million project had been completed, and steps were being initiated towards the construction phase.
The project is among a number recommended by the European Union for the four Windward Islands banana producers - Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The scheme would reduce the impact of drought on banana production, boost production and help to make output more predictable and less determined by the vagaries of the weather.
Industry analysts said the project was already under way in St. Vincent and in St. Lucia, where production was hard hit by drought during the first six months of this year.
Henderson attributed the recent improvements in banana production to interventions made by government to provide financial aid to the industry.
He said, while speaking in Parliament, that government had provided substantial assistance to the Dominica Banana Marketing Corporation (DBMC) to help it provide fertilizer and other inputs to banana growers.
Henderson said these growers have been adversely affected by factors such as Hurricane Lenny in 1999 and subsequent severe droughts, which impacted negatively on banana production.
He said a major element of government assistance to the banana industry has been a US$814,000 Credit Recovery Program being administered by the DBMC.
Farmers can apply for loans under this program.