Maya King Farms workers, about 700 of them, were protesting today because there is no more work at the banana plants. The banana workers held a two hour, peaceful protest at the Big Creek Port at the Head Quarters of Fyffes and Banana Grower’s Association. As we told you yesterday, Maya King’s only buyer, Fyffes , abruptly pulled out following a recent interview with Maya King’s Farm where John Zabaneh, the previous owner of Maya King, acted as the spokesperson for the company. Zabaneh is listed under the US Drug Kingpin list and that blacklisting was gravely affecting the company. The solution was to install a managerial company; Meridian Company ; but late last week, Fyffes informed Meridian that they will no longer be buying bananas from them. Meridian, who was already struggling to meet payroll, was left with no other choice but to inform their workers that they have no work for them. The workers are incensed and desperate. Today, we spoke with some of them who were protesting Fyffes decision.
Harold Salazar: I work in the banana farms nearby… I studied agronomy in Banana. The banana quality has fallen in quality but we can do better, we need a new opportunity at this time to improve the quality of the banana.I am asking the buyers of our friuit to give us
another opportunity, we can give a much better quality of crop. We have everything now to work even harder and better, to give better fruit, but please give us another opportunity.
David Gonzalez, is the director of Meridian and told us today what is their next step.
David Gonzales, Manager Meridian: We have been very careful in maintain their requirements in terms of how we managed the assets or manage the company. We have done every possible thing because one of the key dominant issues is that Fiffes has an exclusive right to our bananas. And as an exclusive buyer don’t you think that we have to please them? Because there is not another buyer in sight. So that monopoly they have on our banana forces us to bend over backward for them and we have been doing that all along.But for some reason when we sounded the alarm that things were not right in the industry, that the industry is going down the drain they got scared. But the reason they got scared is because they have a hand in this disaster. They did not properly manage the control of their quality. They introduced a new individual this year, a very inexperienced person. A person that honestly was gung-ho about dropping the hammer; basically a hatchet man and he is a new guy and he does not have much experience and he doesn’t have much dialogue. He failed to report back that the cow was dying. They kept milking the cow and he was bleeding the cow and the cow was dying and he did not report that back because had he reported that back they would have said stop bleed that cow, let it recover so we can get more milk. But he did not do that and so that is the main reason that things went south.We know that the relationship has reached irreconcilable differences. But what we want is, we want them to realize and they don’t even have to apologize. They just have to make it right; make the wrong, right, that’s all we ask for them. Legal recourse that will come later but these people need a voice onstage.
JOURNALIST:What do you anticipate 2 months from now and 6months from now
David Gonzales Manager Meridian;Obviously When a giant meets a small person like this the giant always bets on time. They say wait wait it will blow over. But we are living in the digital world and this scar, this blemish on their otherwise impeccable image will not go away.
Gonzalez is still hopeful that the media exposure will get them the support they need to pressure Fyffes to grant them a transitional period. Meanwhile, John Zabaneh, explained about some of the options that may exist.
John Zabaneh: The prime minister has been in touch with them from what I understood and they have told the prime minister that the only way is if the government takes over the farms and run them. Now that is ridiculous, that is not an option. Everybody can remember the days of the banana control board; it was a total disaster. So that is not really looking for a viable solution. Let’s be real. This government cannot take over a banana farm; they are not in the banana business; they cannot pay for a banana farm, and they cannot run a banana farm.
So Where will that customer come from. there are a number of farms 6 to 8, that’s been on sale for the past 15 years and still cannot be sold. They can be given away. If you want make a gift, yes. So that’s not an option. When this all started with me, it was only me, not my mother, my mother was not involved in this. My brothers were not involved in this; this was me, John Zabaneh. That’s when the pot boiled over, so to speak! And fiffes found a way then to work with the farms; to distance myself and I have not been involved in the operations of the banana farm. I have not been; it has been Meridian. Of course, if they get into crisis, who will they go to? The next thing is that it is clearly laid out in the contract that if there is any changes to the terrain, or land clearing, or knocking down trees, they have to go back to the owners.And precisely so, how could Fiffes possibly say that they do not have contact with the owners? They have come to us and asked us to knock down citrus, grapefruit. The year before last the owners were approached to clear 200 acres of grapefruit and replace it with bananas. My mother, my brothers everybody; we all agreed to give them what they want. They were not afraid of OFAT then, these were all phone calls over 20 minutes per phone call. I have messages, written back and forth from Fiffes. All of a sudden the ghost came from behind the curtain and spook them?What will these people do tomorrow. John Zabaneh, Charles Zabaneh Myrtle Sharan, David Zabaneh Betty Zabaneh; we can go on with our lives doing other thing. What?! these are poor people; hand to mouth.