Coco beans drying under the tropical sun
Saint Lucia has a long and ever-evolving agricultural history that began two millennia ago when Amerindians migrated into the islands of the Caribbean from South America bringing with them many staple crops on which they could subsist. Over more recent centuries the introduction of new food crops continued with the arrival of the French, English, Africans, East Indians, and others, which resulted in great diversity in the island’s agricultural products. Even today, the industry continues to change significantly to satisfy the demands of the island’s burgeoning tourism sector and in response to global factors that have dictated a decline in the banana industry, which not long ago was the mainstay of the local economy.
The geography of the island also affects agricultural activities as the ruggedness of the terrain significantly influences land use and the areas suitable for suitable for commercial cultivation. Conversely, the rugged hillsides serve well for the growth of fruit trees, coconuts and some other important products.
The Ministry of Agriculture is currently supporting a number of initiatives to sustain the industry’s future. Much improvement has been made in the past few years in the production of better quality fruits and vegetables to meet the demands of discerning tourists. Organic farming methods are also being promoted and instituted. Much effort too is being put into the revival and growth of the cocoa industry as Saint Lucia is now recognized for producing some of the richest cocoa in the world.
Crops produced in Saint Lucia for export include bananas, coconuts, cocoa, avocados, mangoes and other citrus fruits. Also grown chiefly for local consumption are items such as coffee, christophene, breadfruit, plantain, carrots, cabbage, pumpkin and a variety of root products such as dasheene, yams and sweet potatoes.
Visitors who wish to learn more about locally grown food products are urged to strike up a conversation with chefs and other staff at their hotels or to venture into a local eatery where the cooks are sure to be very friendly and accommodating. Also, there’s no better place to see Saint Lucia’s full gambit of agricultural products than the local morning markets found in many communities. The Castries Central Market is best, particularly on a Saturday morning.