Argentina: Imported bananas dominate the market

The banana is the most consumed fruit in Argentina. Per capita consumption averages more than 12 kilograms per year. Argentina produces bananas in a tropical zone in the north of the country, but the local production only serves to supply a fraction of the market. Instead, imported bananas dominate the market: the country imported over 400,000 tons of bananas in 2015, i.e. 50% more than a decade ago, according to NeaRural.com.

Argentina spends about 200 million dollars every year on banana imports. According to official data, last year the country imported 404,279,000 kilos, which accounted for 91% of all the fruit imported by the country, well above kiwi, avocado, and pineapple imports.

More than half of the banana comes from Ecuador, but there are also imports from Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and even Chile, which sent 191 tons of bananas to Argentina in 2015. The presence of foreign bananas is growing. Ten years ago, Argentina only imported 300,000 tons of bananas, i.e. 100,000 tons fewer than what the country currently imports.

In light of this, the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA) wrote a report to analyze Argentina's options to supply a bigger share of the internal banana market. The country currently has two regions with the adequate climate to produce bananas: Formosa and Salta/Jujuy. Argentina has about 5,400 hectares devoted to this crop that produce 105,000 tons, just enough to cover 20% or less of the country's demand.

In general, Argentina's banana production caters to nearby areas, such as Formosa, Corrientes, Chaco, Cordoba and Tucuman. These fruits hardly ever reach Buenos Aires, as the imported bananas went from having 86% of the Central Market's share in 2001 to more than 95% or it nowadays. That is, only 5% of the banana in Buenos Aires' Central Market is of domestic origin.

The competition from imported banana severely conditioned local production. For example, Formosa's banana production, which is carried out by small farmers, began in the early twentieth century and had its boom after 1960, with more than 7,500 hectares cultivated. Currently, that surface area has decreased to only 1,500 hectares

"We consider that there is scope for the development of these products, particularly through a strategy focused on product quality," technicians from the INTA stated. They also stated that, by the end of 2015, the 24-kilo box of bananas from Ecuador had a cost of nearly 200 pesos while the box of bananas from Salta and Formosa only cost between 70 to 90 pesos. 

Source: infocampo.com.ar

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