The banana industry should do more to promote fruit consumption, in addition to opening up new markets, as a way to offset an oversupply that may increase with anticipated EU imports changes.
Both the managing director and the president of the board of the National Banana Corporation (Corbana) of Costa Rica, organizer of the VII International Banana Congress that was inaugurated in Miami, made statements to Efe to that regard.
"The markets are oversupplied," said Corbana Managing Director Jorge Sauma, who indicated that in some cases the quotas set by the European Union (EU) for banana imports from Latin American countries are not being respected.
The Congress initiated in Miami today has as its central issue the changes that will take place from 2020 when the agreements signed in 2010 between the EU and Latin America for the banana trade expires, and a tariff of 75 euros per metric ton of fruit is established.
Sauma, who emphasized that these agreements were achieved after "19 years of litigation," stressed that Latin American exporters will have stiff competition in ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) that will continue to pay a zero tariff for placing their bananas in the EU.
"It's a disadvantage," said Corbana's director, who was optimistic that the Costa Rican banana industry will be competitive with its commitment to quality and the environmental and the social commitments it has undertaken.
"One hundred percent of our fruit is certified," he added.
Looking ahead to 2020, it is important to strive not only to open markets but also to increase consumption, he said.
During the first session of the congress, data such as that the consumption of bananas per capita in some countries of East Africa is 30 kilos per year, was made known, which means between 3 and 11 bananas a day per person.
If the figures were the same in Europe and other markets of the Costa Rican and Latin American banana industries there would be no problems, says Sauma, who indicates that in Norway it is 18 to 22 kilos and in other countries of the Old Continent are at about 12.
In addition, while in the United States consumption is stable throughout the year, in Europe there is a significant decline in the summer months and as demand decreases, prices fall.
"That price decrease has been more severe this year," underscored Eduardo Gomez, president of Corbana's board of directors.
"It has sold at half the price in certain months," he said.
Gómez, who is a producer, said that prices in the summer months were half that of last year and blamed both the decline in consumption in Europe and the increase in production in countries like Colombia and Guatemala, which increased supply.
On the other hand, Gómez referred to the need to close the door on Fusarium race 4 fungus in Latin America, where it has not yet appeared.
"It would be disastrous for Costa Rica and the entire region," Gómez said, adding that Corbana has made efforts with the Costa Rican government, and at regional level, to elaborate a regulation in order to try to prevent its spread.
The manager was pessimistic about the possibility of eliminating the fungus and opined that the solution is more about looking for resistant varieties, but it is a "very long" process.
The final day of the Miami Congress, which runs until Friday, is dedicated to Fusarium race 4, one of the banana's biggest dangers, the World's fourth crop, and by extension it is also the fruit that is most exported, at more than 10 billion dollars annually.
Because of this fungus, which appears on banana farms and spreads very easily, the previous International Banana Congress decided not to hold these meetings in banana producing countries for six years.
The largest banana exporter in the world is Ecuador and in Latin America there are other important countries in this business like Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.