President Tsai Ing-wen, currently traveling overseas on her Journey of Freedom, Democracy, and Sustainability, inspected operations at a banana export collection center in St. Lucia on the afternoon of July 17 local time (early morning of July 18 Taipei time). The president took part in quality control operations alongside local farmers, affirming agricultural cooperation between Taiwan and St. Lucia through concrete action.
After arriving at the export collection center, President Tsai first received a briefing from the head of the Taiwan Technical Mission in St. Lucia, Mr. Cheng Shih-lung (鄭仕隆), on the results of the Taiwan ICDF Banana Productivity Improvement Project in St. Lucia. Minister for Agriculture Ezechiel Joseph then delivered remarks in which he thanked the Taiwan government and technical mission for introducing new technologies to complement traditional domestic banana cultivation techniques and improve St. Lucia's agriculture.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet personally accompanied President Tsai to a banana inspection and quarantine area to hear a briefing from Minister Joseph on the center's quality control operations. The two leaders of state joined local farmers in quality control procedures by sealing and signing boxes. While posing for a group photo, the president staught the prime minister how to say "great job" in Taiwanese. Everyone enjoyed themselves in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Bananas are a key cash crop for St. Lucia, which is why Taiwan has carried out a Banana Black Sigatoka Disease Prevention and Treatment Project there since 2012. This project has effectively helped St. Lucia control black Sigatoka disease, and in 2019, a Banana Productivity Improvement Project was also launched in St. Lucia. Taiwan has much experience exporting bananas, and is tapping into that experience to help improve St. Lucia's banana cultivation infrastructure, control diseases and pests that affect bananas, enhance production management techniques, and provide guidance on how to obtain GLOBALG.A.P. certification. By increasing the export competitiveness of their bananas, St. Lucia became the only country in the eastern Caribbean that exports bananas to the United Kingdom and the European market.
Before leaving the export collection center, President Tsai fielded questions from reporters. Asked about a recent op-ed in which former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Europe to defend democratic Taiwan, President Tsai stated that we are, of course, very grateful to international friends who care about democracy, freedom, and human rights in Taiwan, and speak out on our behalf. She expressed confidence that more and more people will take an interest in the development of democracy in Taiwan, as well as Taiwan's right to choose its own way of life and what kind of future it wants. We further hope, she said, that our citizens will value Taiwan's democracy and freedom, for we all bear a shared responsibility to pass freedom and democracy on to future generations.
Commenting on Internet reports that the government donated more funds to Haiti's power grid than it did for dengue fever control in Taiwan, President Tsai pointed out that Taiwan's support for the Haitian power grid project was in the form of a loan, and it was a commercial loan. As for the Kaohsiung City Government's budget proposal for dengue fever control, the president stated: "Fifty million NT dollars is 50 million NT dollars. That 50 million didn't become just 20 million. We feel that someone has deliberately spread false information, so we've reported this matter to the police."