Martijn van Es of Savid International:

“Organic banana cultivation sometimes a vicious circle”

Organic bananas have been a familiar sight in the sector for over 20 years. With the advance of Fair Trade bananas the organic bananas have to make room on the shelf. “Despite the fact that Fair Trade and organic bananas aren’t technically the same, I do think they go well together,” says Martijn van Es of Savid International, a company importing bananas from the Dominican Republic. Van Es states that many organic growers are Fair Trade-certified.

Savid has had its share of problems operating in the organic sector. Many imported bananas, like for instance the Cavendish variety, suffer from Black Sigatoka, a leaf spot disease of banana plants. Tackling the disease is difficult for organic growers not allowed certain, or any, pesticides. “In the organic segment you have to prevent disease from happening in the first place,” says Martijn. “Once an infection has broken out, most organically allowed measures are not aggressive enough to fight it.”

After last year’s Sigatoka outbreak Savid proposed a strategy to its growers, which included treatment with an organic anti-fungal agent. “Unfortunately low banana prices prevented many growers to do the necessary,” Martijn explains. “It’s a vicious circle: low income means low investments, decreasing the amount of crop which, in turn, means low income. The measures we have taken to fight infection are also costly, and these costs are not always covered by the prices people are willing to pay. It’s a difficult situation.”

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