Interview with Jose Francisco Zuñiga, president of Asbama

Colombia: "The cultivation of bananas generates 50,000 jobs in the region"

In an interview with Agronegocios, the president of Asbama, Jose Francisco Zuñiga, highlighted the huge potential of the banana sector and pointed out that it currently generates around 50,000 direct and indirect jobs.

"There has been an increase in production in Magdalena and La Guajira, which concentrates the banana production of the northern zone of the country. We went from exporting 520,000 tons in 2016 to more than 680,000 tons in 2018, growing at a rate of 80,000 tons per year," Zuñiga said.

He also said that there had been an increase in exports over 2018. "In terms of value, last year banana exports shipped out through the Port of Santa Marta amounted to nearly 313 million dollars, and if the price remains the same by the end of 2019 we'll have exported around 350 million dollars. According to information from the two main banana traders, which account for nearly 80% of the marketing and export in the region, this year we are going to grow by 8% to 10%. We would go from exporting 680,000 tons to around 750,000 tons."

"Exports are concentrated in the United States (15%) and Europe (85%). We are working on the possibility of exporting to China, but we are still in a process of revision," the president of Asbama stated.

Regarding the current challenges of the banana sector, he highlighted the worm threat, the problems due to climate change, and the threats due to contamination of fruit with drugs.

"The sector has invested a lot on efficient irrigation systems, the farms no longer have irrigation by flooding and have implemented sprinkler irrigation systems, there are even farms that are using micro-sprinklers. We have reduced water consumption by 60% to 70%."

The banana sector generates one direct job per hectare planted, which means it generates 45,000 to 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region.

"We are afraid that a disease coming from Asia, the Fusarium TR4, may arrive in the country, so we have worked on mitigation plans and asked the ICA to carry out stronger controls in the ports," Zuñiga concluded.



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