Given the fall in sales in Argentina, the banana growers of the Cochabamba tropics are now looking to new markets, such as Peru and Chile. In fact, exports to the latter country doubled in 2018, awakening expectations in Bolivia. In contrast, the trans-Andean country applies very stringent conditions for food products, to the point that last year they returned four trucks of Bolivian fruit due to health issues.
According to data from the Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute (IBCE), in 2018 banana exports to Argentina fell by 16 percent, in relation to 2017. In contrast, sales to Chile last year amounted to 3 million kilos worth 695,009 dollars, more than double the amount exported in 2017, which stood at 1,3 million kilos for a value of 300,000 dollars. In 2016, sales only reached 959,500 kilos.
In addition, Chile is seen as a more profitable market. There, a box of bananas is quoted at more than $ 6.30 and there is demand for the fruit, which arrives in that country in one day and one night. On the other hand, in Argentina that same box is quoted at $ 5.30. In addition, the country's currency is being affected by inflation, the fruit has to compete with fruit from other countries, and it takes three days to take the fruit there, stated the representative of the producers, Agustin Conde.
But while Chile is more profitable, it is also more demanding. Last December, Chilean authorities detected a mosquito in a box of bananas and returned the entire truck, just like they returned three trucks with pineapple for the same reason, the official said.
"Authorities check the trucks that arrives at the border in Chile. If they find any waste or something (in the fruit), the truck isn't allowed to enter the country. They have found a mosquito in a box and returned the truck. That is why producers don't like to export there. It's difficult, but it can be done," he said.
Conde said that producers required technical advice to export their product to Chile and to gain market in that country in face of the fall of the Argentine market.
He stated that his sector didn't receive training from the Ministry of Productive Development, National Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Innovation (Iniaf), the National Fund for Integral Development (Fonadin), or the National Service of Agricultural Health and Food Safety (Senasag).
"Senasag does not give us the tools to pack the bananas, or tell us what chemical we should use. That's why we have had problems with the banana. If the Government gave us guarantees, producers could take the risk to export, but they do not help us," said Conde.
He also said that when a fruit truck was returned, apart from the economic loss, producer must clear the seized cargo, which means they have to an additional procedure and expense to cover.
In 2016, the country exported 996,658 kilos to Peru for 33,310 dollars. There is no data for 2017 and 2018.
In recent weeks, banana plantations have suffered floods in the Cochabamba tropics that affected production.
Banana growers register losses
The president of the Banana Producers of Cochabamba, Agustin Conde, said that banana exports to the Argentine market had decreased due to Argentina's economic crisis and the competition of the Ecuadorian, Colombian, Brazilian, and Paraguayan product.
He also said that, due to the high costs of transport and the competition there was, banana producers obtained $ 1.90 per box, but that producing the fruit cost them 2.90. Taking a truck of fruit to that country costs them $ 3,000, while it costs $ 1,300 to Brazilian and Paraguayan exporters.