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Costa Rica: Agricultural exports in 2018 hit by a decrease in banana and juice exports

A decrease in the export value of bananas, fruit juices and concentrates had an impact on the general behavior of last year's agricultural and food exports.

According to data from the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer) website, the value of banana sales abroad, accumulated between January and October last year (latest available data), fell by 4.4% when compared with the same period of 2017, as it went from $880 million to $841 million.

In the case of juices and fruit concentrates (especially of orange and pineapple) sales in that period fell by 18% in value, as they went from $201 million between January and October 2017 to $165 million in the same period last year, according to Procomer.

Despite this fall, the banana continues to be Costa Rica's most important individual export product, according to the value of its sales. As such, its behavior is very influential in the general state of the agricultural sector. As a result, the agricultural sector, in general, barely grew 1.2% in the period described, going from $2,394 million between January and October 2017 to $2,424 million in the same period of 2018.

The value of the food industry's placements, where juices and concentrates are classified, decreased by 1%. Juices and concentrates are the second product in relevance for this productive sector, behind syrups and concentrates for soft drinks, according to Procomer's records.

The orange sector's production and exports decreased because of a change in the variety of trees used to produce oranges and, from them, juice and concentrate, Procomer stated.

The orange production sector was hit by the appearance of diseases, especially by the yellow dragon plague. As a result, the producing companies decided to change the crops with varieties that are more tolerant to this bacterium, which would allow them to increase the production.

However, that change generated a reduction in production, while the new plantations reach maturity and full harvest, said Procomer.

In the case of bananas, the production was mainly affected by the climate. Jorge Sauma, the general manager of the National Banana Corporation (Corbana), said that "the precipitation levels were higher than in the 2016-2017 period. The rain wasn't well distributed, we had floods in February and heavy downpours in July." In addition, the heat units were lower than in the last two years. This has affected the farms' production levels.

Sauma said the export volume would stand at around 123 million or 124 million boxes (18.14 kilos), i.e. about four or five million packages less than in 2017, which amounts to around 3% less.

At the end of the year, the decrease in income or value would be lower than what was seen until October in Procomer's data, since Corbana's estimates are a bit different.

"According to our statistics, which are based on the Unique Customs Declarations (DUA) approved by the country's customs, to date the preliminary export value, as of October 31, 2018 amounts to $870 million, that is $7.2 million or 0.8% less than the $877.1 million achieved in the same period of 2017," stated Sauma.

Source: La Nación


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