Costa Rica: Banana exports down 9% from January to May

Banana exports, the main export product of Costa Rica, fell by 9% in volume and 8% in revenue in the first five months of this year when compared to the same period of 2017.

Banana exports between January and May of this year amounted to $410 million, while they amounted to $448 million in the same period last year.

In the first five months of 2018 the country exported 972,000 tons of bananas and in the same period of 2017 it exported 1,072,000 tons.

The figures were published in the Statistical Portal of the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer) and stop an increase in the first five months of the last two years (2016 and 2017).

In 2015, there was also a slight drop (both in volume and income) of the Costa Rican placements of this fruit abroad.

The general manager of the National Banana Corporation (Corbana), Jorge Sauma, said that the effects of the cold fronts that caused some flooding in banana regions were experienced at the beginning of the year. The plantations, he said, were affected for several months.

However, Corbana recorded a lower drop than that reported by Procomer.

"According to our data, during the first five months of 2018, the country exported 52.6 million boxes of bananas (i.e. 954,440 tons), while in the same period of 2017 we exported 53.9 million boxes (i.e. 976,973 tons) which means there was a 2.31% decrease in exports," Sauma said.

Apart from facing flood problems, during the present year, the plantations did not receive the usual amount of heat (sunlight), which affected the weight of the fruit.

The sector will overcome the problem
Sauma said that the banana farms had recovered from the impact of the cold fronts and the decrease in the heat units, and that their impact was temporary and not a structural problem.

Despite this, according to estimates from Corbana, there will be a slight drop in production and income from sales of the fruit at the end of 2018.

However, producers expect production won't decline from 120 million boxes of 18.14 kilos each, at the end of this year. Last year, the sector exported 125 million boxes and, in 2016, it shipped out 121 million boxes.

However, there is another factor that can affect Costa Rica. The sector can be affected by the oversupply of fruit in the world market due to the advances in production in competing countries.

During 2017, the main banana exporting countries obtained historical levels in their banana exports. Other competitors, such as Guatemala and Panama, among others, are expanding their cultivation area.

The main markets for Costa Rican bananas continue to be the European Union and the United States. "In recent years there has been an increase in Ukraine and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent in China. Their shares are still small, but we believe there is potential to seek more markets," he said.


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