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Dollar Zone banana exporters playing Russian roulette

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The banana imports of 28 countries in the EU are monitored daily by the European Commission’s customs services. This was a prerequisite to grant preferential access to former African and Caribbean colonies and countries with new free trade agreements such as Central America, Colombia and Peru. Analysis of the data for 2015 shows a mature banana market of 5.6 million tons or 11.2 kg per capita.

Local production showed a small rise, up 0.8% for the European crop, totalling 662,000 tons, good for 11.6% of total consumption. In the six banana-producing European regions, production was stable with no major weather upsets. There were some shortfalls in Guadeloupe, mainly due to the renewal of banana farms. The yearly €280 million subsidies or €0.42 per kg was sufficient to continue working on the farms. In 2015 it appeared that the marketing support was sufficient to give the Canary Islands’ ‘platanos’ a place on the supermarket shelves. In France, they are working hard to give a local identity by introducing the French flag on the package.

Banana-producing countries in Africa and the Caribbean shipped fewer bananas to the EU, 1.2% less compared to 2014, or 1,068,000 tons.

At the beginning of the year, the Dominican Republic fell short with their organic bananas and this delay was never recuperated, ending at 325,000 tons. Schemes such as Rainforest Alliance have been gaining ground in the UK as a growing number of brands and retailers are getting certified by them and forming a real threat to the Fairtrade logo.

Cameroon was a winner, increasing exports to 275,000 tons, while Ivory Coast shipped extra volumes, benefitting from the ACP banana aid investments. Belize growers went on strike, negotiating a better contract with the sole trader Fyffes. This resulted in a loss of 5,000 tons. In Suriname the banana experts are fighting against the deadly ‘Wilt’ banana virus. Almost a quarter of the area had to be given up. The owner Univeg recorded lower imports below 60,000 tons, sometimes at low quality levels. The Upper Volta region in Ghana is almost reaching its maximum export potential of 50,000 tons.

The banana industries in Caribbean countries are condemned to disappear as they are out of the scale of competition. They are too small and no longer sustainable.

2015 was a record year for the Dollar Zone banana-producing countries that had signed free trade agreements (FTA) with the EU in 2013. Colombia became the leader again with 1.47 million tons and as always received the best Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) price of €0.65 per kg, as this country pays an import duty of €0.11 per kg. So do the other Central American countries and Peru. Guatemala and Nicaragua are again present in the market, shipping 80 containers weekly to the old continent.

The banana exports of Panama receded further by 10%—not surprisingly, as they are paid the lowest CIF price. Chiquita has its own fiscal or financial reasons to honour its preferential supplier.

Countries without a FTA had to pay an import duty of €0.132 per kg. This handicap results in a loss of $0.42 per box or a negative margin of 6%. For Ecuador, the longer sailing distance had to be accounted for. This explains the significant drop of 13%, reaching only 1.28 million tons. Mexico and Brazilian exporters showed lower volumes for the same reason.

Next year, this handicap will increase to €0.24 per kg, unless the long awaited FTA can be signed with Ecuador during the year.

If the dollar gets even stronger against the euro, the Dollar Zone exporters will suffer more. But in 2016, the ‘El Niño’ weather phenomenon bringing heavy rains, droughts and hurricanes could change the markets drastically.

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Bananas from Ecuador in Asia to stay?

Asian consumers really like Ecuadorian bananas, which is why the country’s exporters forecast that these quantities will be repeated for 2015 and 2016, or even increased slightly up to 17 million boxes.

Weather problems in the Philippines in 2014 created opportunities in the Asian market that Ecuador’s banana exporters hope will endure.

Ecuador has always exported to Asia. But until now, only insignificant volumes were being shipped, because even though the quality of Ecuadorian produce was better than the local supply, the shippers could easily be priced out of business. Year-end figures for 2013 showed exports of just 3 million crates. But in 2014, the Philippines had weather problems and was unable to supply its market share, leaving the window open for Ecuadorian operators to export an impressive 16 million boxes.

Asian consumers really like Ecuadorian bananas, which is why the country’s exporters forecast that these quantities will be repeated for 2015 and 2016, or even increased slightly up to 17 million boxes. Even when Philippine fruit comes back onto the market, it seems likely that Asian consumers will continue to appreciate the good prices and high quality of bananas from Ecuador. But this all remains to be seen, depending on market stability.

For Ecuador, last year 2015 was unusual, with constantly low prices. Historically, the campaign is split into two periods: high prices and low prices. Annual report graphs outlined how one season and the high-priced period minimised the losses that occurred during the low price periods. When doing the books, it was usually considered a “good” season. Nevertheless, in 2015 the price of Ecuadorian banana suffered no periods of variation, and instead remained stable. This new model gave rise to concern and uncertainty in the sector, with exports to Asia most likely to suffer.


This article appeared on page 80 in the News section of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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European Commission should better protect EU banana growers, says Spanish MEP

Canary Islands politician Gabriel Mato wants the European Commission to act faster if banana imports from non-EU countries such as Peru and Colombia exceed agreed limits for a preferential customs duty.

Canary Islands politician Gabriel Mato wants the European Commission to act faster if banana imports from non-EU countries such as Peru and Colombia exceed agreed limits for a preferential customs duty.

Mato, a member of Spain’s ruling party Partido Popular, said the Commission should report to the European Parliament weekly – and not just at the end of the year – so timely action can be taken if limits are exceeded.

In a press release in Spanish, Mato said it had been noted in the Parliament’s Committee on International Trade that Peru had exceeded its limit in 2013 and 2014. He said that by the time this was reported at the end of the relevant year, it was too late to implement a safeguard clause suspending the preferential customs duty.

During a meeting of the committee in Brussels on May 6 he called for more to be done to protect EU growers. If asked, they would tell the Commission they are “in a permanent state of crisis,” he said. With the signing of an agreement with Ecuador on the horizon meaning the entry of even more bananas, action on the issue is all the more important, he said.

According to the Commission, in November 2014 it appeared that the imports into the EU of fresh bananas from Peru exceeded the relevant threshold.

However, it said, imports of fresh bananas from Peru represented only 1.9 % of the total imports of fresh bananas into the EU for January-September 2014. Also, imports of fresh bananas from other traditional importing countries, notably Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, remained largely below the thresholds defined for them in comparable stabilisation mechanisms.

It also noted that:

  • the average wholesale banana price in the EU market in October 2014 (0.98 EUR/kg) did not register notable changes compared to banana price averages for the previous months;
  • that “there is neither an indication that the stability of the Union market has been disturbed by the imports of fresh bananas from Peru in excess of the defined annual trigger import volume, nor that this had any significant impact on the situation of Union producers” and
  • “there is no threat of serious deterioration or a serious deterioration for producers in the outermost regions of the Union.”

The Commission concluded that the suspension of preferential customs duty on imports of bananas originating in Peru would not be appropriate but said it would continue to closely monitor banana imports from Peru.


Gabriel Mato press release: Exigimos a la CE que proteja a los productores europeos de plátano e intervenga antes cuando la entrada de banano de terceros países supere los límites fijados

COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING DECISION of 17 December 2014 determining that the temporary suspension of the preferential customs duty established under the stabilisation mechanism for bananas of the Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Colombia and Peru, of the other part, is not appropriate for imports of bananas originating in Peru for the year 2014




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Fyffes flags price rises to offset currency fluctuations

Fyffes has delivered a positive performance in the early months of 2015, with profits in the year to date in line with expectations

Dubin-based tropìcal fruit group Fyffes plc says it will continue to pursue “necessary increases in selling prices in all markets” as a response to the significant strengthening of the US Dollar against the Euro and Sterling.

In a stock exchange notice, the importer and distributor of products including bananas, pineapples and melons also said it had delivered a positive performance in the early months of 2015, with profits in the year to date in line with expectations. Fyffes said it is maintaining the following target earnings range for 2015:

Fyffes target ranges.png

According to a Fyffes plc presentation at its AGM on April 30, Fyffes is Europe’s number one for banana sales and number one in the US for melons.

Fyffes market position.png

The presentation also shows Fyfess grows all of the melons it sells, about 65% of the pineapples and about 7% of the bananas.

Fyffes overview of operations.png

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Fyffes plc April 30, 2015 announcement
Fyffes plc presentation at its Annual General Meeting 30 April 2015



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BANANAS: The high dollar and the return of El Niño

FRUIT bananas - Edited

Last year, the banana supply in the EU-28 logged another record, reaching 5.7 million tons, an increase of 5.1% on 2013

The official European population increased by 0.3% to 506 million and with every European eating about half a kilo more of bananas, the average consumption rose to 11.3 kg per year. Following the official Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) price declared at European borders, local banana prices rose by a cent to €0.73 per kg. ACP bananas increased by 2 cents to reach €0.67, while other sources became 1 cent cheaper to €0.59. The latter can be explained by the lower import duties, a decrease of €2.20 cents per kg, paid by exporters from Colombia, Peru and the six Central American countries, while Ecuador, the only main banana supplying country, had to pay the full duty of €132 per ton.

EU reaches record levels of production to 655,000 tons

European production reached record export levels, up by 8% to 655,000 tons representing 12% of all bananas supplied in the EU-28. Canary Island production increased by 1%, whilst exports to the peninsula increased by 14% reaching 334,000 tons. Good news for Madeira as their exports increased by 18% to a total of 18,000 tons to Lisbon. Production increased by 29% to 193,000 tons after Martinique replanted following the recent hurricanes and was sent to Dunkirk where local supermarkets fight for the industry’s most environmentally grown banana. Bad news for banana growers in Crete and Cyprus as they are set to lose the fight against tourism.

ACP banana supplies are stable at 1.08 million tons. Very little difference in volume has been seen in the African and Caribbean banana producing countries. African operators in Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Ghana, prefer stability in the markets, exporting mainly to France as well as supplying local markets and neighbouring countries. The Dominican Republic has found a good mix of organic, fair trade and conventional fruit to increase their exports to 342,000 tons. Belize bananas, marketed by Fyffes, have shown themselves to be a stayer by producing 100,000 tons. The Surinam plantation, which went for $20 million (€19 million) to the Univeg Group, had some difficulties, as exports went down to 73,000 tons. The smaller Caribbean islands are losing market share on the UK market, although Jamaica is planning its reappearance in 2015 by shipping pre-ripened fruit.


This is an extract from an article which appeared on page 44 of edition 136 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read it and much more online here.



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Novoa Group to provide global services

Banana Roman Olive y Jorge Sauma

The Noboa Group is the third largest banana company in Ecuador, farming a total of 900 hectares and producing on average 250,000 boxes of bananas weekly, with stable annual contracts. They now have a new commercial director from Catalonia with many years’ experience in the banana industry, Román Olive, who will be responsible for bringing the Bonita brand back to its former glory. The new project, reveals Román, is based on in-depth reforms on several levels. “The company’s new vision is to achieve increasingly sustainable and always ecological production, as our main aim is to reduce the use of chemical products to the bare minimum”, affirms Román. “Our project is for us to become a service company supporting the supermarkets and the banana industry as a whole, helping to improve the competitive edge of the whole production chain, with our vessels and containers, which will speed up the service and make it possible to deliver top-quality fresh products for which Ecuador is renowned, as the source of the best bananas in the world.” 

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Golden Force opens new markets and ups volume


Golden Force is an Ecuadorian company with an extensive track record in exporting bananas and baby bananas. Golden Force is one of the most successful banana brands which, year after year, has managed to enhance its presence in international markets thanks to its continuity, quality and prestige. Although Golden Force is a leading trademark, the company also provides top-quality products under its own brands BanaKing, BanaPower and BanaFruit for different markets. The company exports 50 % of its products to Russia and neighbouring countries, while also working with the Mediterranean and European countries in the Adriatic and Turkey, as well as in the Black Sea in Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In the current season they have managed to boost Baby Banana exports in markets in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan and countries even further afield, where they are selling all year round. The current goal is to increase banana marketing coverage and reach even more distant target markets such as China, with the best quality service and competitive pricing. Their box sizes have been modified to achieve greater container weight capacity. Director Juan José Pons emphasised the logistic problems currently facing the banana sector, as every day there are fewer medium-sized refrigerated container vessels available. Ecuador’s banana sector must develop strategies that will provide greater competitive edge through productivity and improved logistics. Moreover, the global banana industry has to adjust to changes in consumer habits, as well as distribution and transport systems, which is why Golden Force focuses its plan of action on the market, to streamline the assimilation of these changes.


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Ecuasabor sees exports grow 30%

BANANA ecuasabor

Hubimez S.A. is an Ecuador-based company dedicated to the production and marketing of high quality farm products under the ECUASABOR trademark. The Ecuasabor brand has been present in the international market for over 30 years. The main product is banana, in addition to their papaya and pineapple plantations. The pineapple plantation was started up in 2001 alongside 450 hectares of banana crop. Around 20,000 crates of bananas are exported on a weekly basis. In 2013, thanks to growth in production, they were able to boost export volumes up to 30 %. Exports are shipped to the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia, while also working with the European market. Demand is on the rise in Turkey, Georgia and former Soviet countries. The company has all the export certification, following GlobalGAP regulations. They have a strong commitment to the environment, their country and the community. At the same time, the company stays at the cutting edge of new technological breakthroughs in the industry to maintain the high quality of service. At the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin 2014, the company launched its new Aquebana brand in a drive to capture new clients, mainly supermarket chains and distributors. In 2014 they are strengthening relationships with their customers and have already reeled in some new contacts in China and Central Asia. 

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BanaBay, successful start-up with premium bananas


With over 30 years of experience in banana production and marketing in Ecuador, the BanaBay company has been active in the international export and distribution area for two years now.  BanaBay offers a short supply chain, with the freshest bananas guaranteed. The company also runs its own plantations, ensuring its consumers can enjoy great tasting fruit all year round. The top quality bananas that BanaBay delivers are grown on several Cavendish variety banana plantations, located on Ecuador’s most fertile soils, in the counties of El Oro and Los Rios. “We are combining excellent post-harvest and environmental practices, which has enabled us to win over 10 different awards due to the quality of our plantations”, explains the Managing Director. Production practices include careful propagation, transplanting, pruning, irrigation, harvesting and storage, guaranteeing the highest quality and the magnificent flavour of their bananas. 
BanaBay is already working in many countries and diverse regions such as New Zealand, China, Europe and the US. In 2013, the family business managed to expand its presence in the European and American markets. Exported volumes have doubled, reaching 2.2 million tons in the last 12 months.  BanaBay’s mission is to be the Customers’ First Choice. “We strive to deliver the best quality fruit to our retail and wholesale customers, working enthusiastically, always innovating and delivering top-quality bananas”. The focus on fast reaction and certificated product quality has helped make this start-up a resounding success.  

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Agroban starts up exports to Asia

Agroban Manuel Romero

Also present at the 5th International Banana Congress was  Manuel Romero, Executive Director of Agroban, the Ecuadorian banana farmers’ association, uniting 52 producers with a total crop area of 8000 ha in Ecuador. “Nowadays the price fails to reflect the banana’s true value and the profit margin is very low”, stated the Agroban CEO in his speech to the 5th International Banana Congress in Costa Rica. This is why the cooperative is interested in going straight into negotiations with supermarkets and providing better returns for its partners.  Although Agroban maintains annual contracts with export companies to ship its fruit to the European and United States markets, the sights are set on Asia for growth through direct sales to retail, cutting out the middleman. Negotiations to open up their provisional exports to China began last year and the first export sale was secured in December 2013. “We have managed to reach China with a good product, great quality and still green, in excellent condition. Our fruit has a long hanger life and is very resistant, despite the transit time we have”, concludes Romero.