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Philippines bananas being squeezed out of Chinese market

Philippines bananas being squeezed out of Chinese market © Marlith (Creative Commons)

© Marlith (Creative Commons)

 

The Philippines Banana Planter and Exporter Association (PBGEA) has announced that profits in banana exports fell by 15% due to the outbreak of Covid-19, which increased shipping costs and delayed transport, reports Business Mirror.

Shipping costs increased by 15%-20% last year, and the transport period increased from an average of 25 days to an average of 30-33 days. The main reason for this delay in transport is the spillover effect from backlogs in Chinese and Singaporean ports in late 2020. Backlogs in one port mean that supply ships miss their rendezvous, which leads to further delays.

The Philippines suffers more from distribution problems in comparison with countries like Vietnam and Cambodia that are closer to the Chinese market. That is why Vietnamese and Cambodian bananas gradually push bananas from the Philippines out of the Chinese market. Last year almost 90% of the Chinese import bananas came from the Philippines, while only 10% came from Vietnam and Cambodia. This year almost 40% of the Chinese import bananas come from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Banana exports declined by 51% in January to 186,000 tons of bananas, while the export value dropped by 47% to US$85 million. Japan is still the largest export market for bananas from the Philippines in terms of export value, but China is the largest market in terms of volume. The income from banana export slumped 20.6% in 2020 to US$1.55 billion.

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Ecuador’s banana imports slip in 2021

Ecuador’s banana imports slip in 2021
Photo: AEBE

Ecuador’s banana exports in the first two months of 2021 slipped 2.9% compared to the same period in 2020, according to Acorbanec data. Of the 69.3 million boxes exported, 29.3% went to the EU, 20.6% to Russia, 12.8% to the US, 10.3% to the Middle East, 7.3% to Eastern Europe, 6.7% to Africa, 5.7% to the Southern Cone, and 4.9% to East Asia. The main falls were registered in shipments to the Middle East (-37.2%) and East Asia (-17.6%), as well as to Russia (-8.8%) and the EU (-5.3%). 

There was however significant growth in exports to Africa (+116.5%), the US (+25.7%) and the Southern Cone (+12.3%).

The largest exporter is UBESA (DOLE), which accounts for 10.3% of the shipped volume, followed by REYBANPAC (6.9%), FRUTADELI S.A. (4.1%) and COMERSUR Cía (3.8%).

 

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Del Monte and Australian university research disease-resistant bananas

Del Monte and Australian university research disease-resistant bananas

Del Monte has teamed up with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia to develop sustainable disease-resistant bananas. The main focus will be on breeding varieties with resistance to Tropical Race 4, a fungus that has blighted the world’s banana crops over the past decade. Del Monte’s involvement in this research is aimed at ensuring the industry’s long-term sustainability and overcoming the main challenges.

The scientific team at QUT is led by Professor James Dale, a leading researcher in the field of biotechnology with an emphasis on biofortification, molecular farming, and disease resistance, including both traditional and genetically modified bananas. Dale’s research team has already produced promising results using CRISPR techniques of gene-editing. 

Dale said: “These new gene-editing technologies represent a new opportunity for addressing the global food supply in ways we never imagined. Our partnership with Fresh Del Monte represents a great opportunity for our research to reach society in an efficient and commercially feasible manner.”

Hans Sauter, chief sustainability officer and senior VP of research and development, agricultural services for Fresh Del Monte, said: “The ability to leverage the capabilities of the team at QUT is very exciting. We see the potential with these revolutionary technologies, and we are looking forward to putting these tools to work to solve real problems facing the world. Fresh Del Monte is proud to partner with a respected research university facility like QUT in this endeavour.”

Fresh Del Monte and QUT’s collaboration is to be carried out with multiple phases over the next five years.

 

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Meeting between Rainforest Alliance, retailers, importers and banana producers

Meeting between Rainforest Alliance, retailers, importers and banana producers
PRESS RELEASE

 

On November 27th, banana producers and exporters from seven Latin American countries (Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic) convened a roundtable with major European retailers and the private certifier Rainforest Alliance (RFA) to reach a common position that would end the conflict over RFA’s new 2020 certification standard. Although the meeting’s agenda expressly excluded any discussion of prices and focused exclusively on the 2020 certification program, the certifier declined the invitation on the grounds that antitrust legislation prevented them from attending.

Three weeks later, on December 18th, RFA convened the same type of meeting, inviting retailers and producers, with the difference that the agenda -imposed by RFA-, in addition to expressly excluding any discussion related to prices as the one convened by the producers, this time also excluded some crucial points for the industry such as the Sustainability Differential and Shared Responsibility.

The meeting could have been a unique opportunity to solve the pending issues on the implementation of the standard. However, the producers believe that it has been a lost opportunity.

The producers consider that “the format of the meeting did not allow for the resolution of the pending issues. More than a space for dialogue, the presentation has been monopolized by RFA. They were practically telling us that the norm is already closed and they are not going to accept changes”.

Since the beginning of the year, producers have denounced the “consultation process” that RFA has carried out as being filled with deficiencies in participation. Producers say that “while the certifier has received our communications, it has not included our comments in the drafting of the standard. We see no intention of reaching consensus”.

On the other hand, the presented Action Plan does not answer in a concrete and exact way how the new standard will be implemented and RFA has not yet determined the mathematical calculation to define the Sustainability Differential or the distribution of the Shared Responsibility. Banana producers say that “both producers and retailers must have a clear understanding of who should pay the sustainability premium, and how much. This is a key aspect to avoid future misunderstandings”.

Lastly, Latin American producers reject RFA’s latest statement: “RFA was not interested in reaching consensus, the dialogues have not been constructive, the proof is that we have insisted on this point and yet they have launched a standard that lacks a clear definition of the responsibilities of each party. This standard is unacceptable”.

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Ecuador sets new banana export record

Calls for supply regulation to protect banana prices 

Ecuador expects to set a new record for banana exports in 2020, despite the logistics obstacles caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first ten months of the year, the world’s number-one banana producer has shipped over 7% more volumes than in the same period of 2019, reaching over 315 million boxes. Data published by the Banana Marketing and Export Association (ACORBANEC) shows that the EU remains the main market for Ecuadorian bananas (26.9%), followed by Russia, the Middle East, the US, East Asia, the Southern Cone. What’s more, growth of over 20% has been recorded for shipments sent to Eastern Europe and Africa.

From January to September 2020, Ecuador’s banana exports were worth US$2.4 billion, according to Central Bank of Ecuador data.

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Colombia promotes environmental and social sustainability certifications

Colombia promotes environmental and social sustainability certifications
Photos: ProColombia

“Today, the global trends suggest that sustainability in the life cycle of agri-food products must be shared by all links in the chain, by producers, industry, distribution channels and the consumer. In this sense, at ProColombia, we encourage the different agro-food exporting sectors of Colombia to gain environmental and social sustainability certifications, since international consumers and clients are increasingly aware of the importance of respecting the environment, natural resources. and, of course, people and animals,” said Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia.

Two sectors that are heading in this direction are bananas and avocados. In Colombia, bananas are the third-largest agricultural export item after coffee and flowers, with shipments of more than 101 million 18.14 kg boxes in 2019, of which 79% went to the European market, 15 % to the United States, and the remaining 6% to smaller markets, where there has been a growing culture of sustainable consumption.

Bananas, a fair crop

The Colombian banana has several differentiating factors, including the organisation of the sector into unions. The main ones are AUGURA and ASBAMA, representing about 85% of the production for export. Likewise, there is a high level of compliance with certifications and voluntary sustainability standards (Voluntary Sustainability Standards -NVS14). In the agricultural sector, NVS are standards developed at the local, national or international level by public and private sector organisations for environmental and social improvements that promote sustainability throughout the value chain. In the banana sector, they define the criteria that the certified product or organisation must meet, often resulting in an identifiable seal for consumers. Linked to this is respect for workers’ rights. Employers and unions in the sector have opted for peaceful dialogue as a form of negotiation, with fair and transparent worker-employer relations, high levels of formalisation, as reflected in decent working conditions, such as the right to unionise, high wages, guarantees regarding housing, education, health, social security, and collective bargaining agreements, among others. Lastly, the sectors have made investments in the social development of communities and undertaken actions to take care of the environment.

Increased exports and certifications for avocados

As for the Colombian avocado, there has been unprecedented growth in recent years. While exports amounted to just US$107,918 (56 tons) in 2010, by 2019, sales abroad totalled US$89.1 million (44,570 tons). Between January and September 2020, exports of this fruit reached US$95 million, +34% compared to the same period of the previous year, and thus exceeding all exports for 2019. However, there has not only been an increase in exports, but also in the pace of certification. According to figures from NaturaCert, in 2019, 20,000 hectares of avocado were certified worldwide with the Rainforest Alliance seal, and Colombia had one of the highest growth rates: in 2018, it had 241 certified hectares, but by the end of 2019, it had almost 1,000 hectares. As for GLOBALG.AP, in 2019, there were around 700 certified avocado farms, which represented an increase of 30% compared to 2018. The projection is that this number will continue to grow because international markets, such as Europe and the United States, are concerned that the fruit is grown through sustainable practices and demand these certifications. Furthermore, in Colombia, irrigation systems are rare thanks to the fertile nature of the land, and the carbon footprint in terms of planting trees is positive.

These advances in compliance with national and international parameters have encouraged the Corporation of Avocado Producers and Exporters (Corpohass) to present a pilot plan for the creation of its own label, “Sustainable Hass”, which promotes sustainability among the various entrepreneurs involved in Hass avocado production, packaging and marketing. Thus, the body becomes one of the first to voluntarily orient itself towards a sustainability strategy.

For Jorge Enrique Restrepo, executive director of Corpohass, “The creation of a referential seal with a sustainable approach is a commitment to improve the competitiveness of the Hass avocado. The implementation of Sustainable Hass will allow the sector to continue generating and sharing value for stakeholders throughout the chain. We believe it is important to start setting an example in sustainable practices to continue to establish this product, even more so when our higher purpose is precisely to lead the sustainability of the Colombian Hass avocado agribusiness.”

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Aldi’s banana price cut denounced

Aldi’s banana price cut denounced
Photo: ALDI supermercados

Aldi’s decision to cut its banana buying price for 2021 has led to a backlash among producers. Costa Rica’s association of independent banana producers (Aproban) stated that the retailer’s actions will worsen the lives of producers and benefit the most privileged. The association said it categorically rejects Aldi’s unilaterally lowering of the purchase price by €0.06/kg, taking the box price down to €11.33 as of January 2021. As the biggest banana purchaser in Europe, Aldi’s price is effectively used as reference for the entire European market.

A statement from Aproban said: “National producers are committed and comply with the environmental, social, economic and sustainability requirements and demands of the European market, supermarket chains and consumers. This situation that implies greater investment and greater weight than the rest of the actors in the value chain, which is why these types of unilateral decisions impact Costa Rican producers, who see their costs increase and the price paid for their fruit decreased.”

It is feared that Aldi’s actions will promote lower social and environmental standards and result in increased poverty. 

The statement continued: “In times of crisis like the one we live, with hunger at the doors of many homes, these actions worsen the lives of many, so we respectfully oppose this Aldi decision that would harm banana production, the country’s economy and the creation of jobs that this activity generates.”

 

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Study finds Ecuador’s banana sector to be sustainable

Study finds Ecuador’s banana sector to be sustainable
© Eurofresh Distribution

 

Proof has arrived to support the Ecuadorean banana sector’s claim to be economically and socially sustainable. An 18-month study conducted by the University of California Davis, funded by producers and exporters, focused on the social, political, financial and environmental aspects of production. 

The results show that 70% of farms were free from child labour, provided healthcare for employees and a competitive salary. Leónidas Estrada, president of Agroban, “One of the criteria for supplying the European market today is that workers are paid a living wage.”

The study also found that Ecuador’s banana sector uses lower amounts of chemicals than other producing countries thanks to its climate and geographical location. However, as producer and former Agroban president Gustavo Marún said, the study revealed several areas where the industry could improve, such as providing more jobs for women who are underrepresented in the sector.

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Chinese banana prices begin to stabilise

Chinese banana prices begin to stabilise

 

Prices of China’s bananas have finally begun to stabilise after consumption had slumped following the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, both of which were celebrated on October 1. Another contributory factor to the price collapse has been the poor fruit quality in some production areas. While regular operations are now being slowly resumed, there are still challenges to be overcome during this banana season. Temperature drops in some production areas has led to the fruit ripening at a slower pace and prices remain at a relatively low level. Nevertheless, there is still a vibrant market for top-quality bananas, with traders competing to purchase the best products.

 

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Banana Time will be held online on October 5-8

Banana Time will be held online on October 5-8

 

The XVII edition of the international Banana Time conference will address the challenges of the banana sector from October 5 to 8. Organised by the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), the event will cover a strategic agenda that aims to strengthen productive capacities to improve the competitiveness of this industry.

Participants will have unlimited access to conferences, exchanges of experiences, commercial exhibitions and business roundtables on topics such as: financing for sustainable development, blockchain strategies, actions in the face of the health emergency, plans and prospects for commercial investment, among others.

“We reinvent ourselves as an association and we have built an event of international stature that responds to the current needs of producers, exporters, suppliers; This meeting will allow us to exchange views with global markets. Ecuador is the largest banana exporter in the world due to its high quality, therefore we want to strengthen a sustainable production chain that allows us to open up more opportunities for everyone to benefit the national economy,” said Marianella Ubilla, president of the AEBE.

The AEBE works constantly to generate better competitive conditions that favour all actors in the value chain, promoting greater technology in order to achieve certifications that support the high standards of Ecuadorian bananas.

“Our objective is to gain a greater international market, for this, structural improvements in the productive conditions of the farms must be implemented, promote greater agility in procedures, generate sources of financing … Every day we face great challenges, therefore as an industry we must respond with resilience Unit. The convention will make it possible to capitalize on national and international experiences that promote the construction of a long-term sustainable vision,” said José Antonio Hidalgo, director of the association.

Banana Time is the name of the XVII International Banana Convention that will bring together the main national and international players in the industry. To participate in the event, a secure and reliable platform has been implemented: www.bananatime.ec

TAGS: Banana Time, conference, online, Ecuador, banana