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Outbreak of Fusarium Wilt disease at Colombian banana plantations

Outbreak of Fusarium Wilt disease at Colombian banana plantations

Two Colombian banana production areas have been quarantined after an outbreak of the Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race IV (TR4) disease, which threatens the world’s bananas. The news has put neighbouring countries are on high alert. The announcement comes after several weeks of speculations among the sector but silence from the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA).

A national contingency is now in place that involves a quarantine of four farm blocks covering 150 hectares in the department of La Guajira, in the northeast of Colombia, near the border with Venezuela. There are new control points and tightened biosecurity control measures at points of exit. 

Plant material has been sent to the Netherlands for laboratory testing, and results are expected in August. If the results turn out to be positive, this will represent a major threat to one of Latin America’s main industries. Ecuador has implemented its own contingency plan and strengthened biocontrol security at points of entry to the country. The International Organisation for Regional Plant and Animal Health (Oirsa) has urged all of its members to strengthen controls at borders, ports and airports.

The two infected farms are Eva Norte and Don Marce, the second of which supplies Dole with organic bananas.


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New trade agreement between EU and Mexico lowers tariffs on bananas

banano mexico

A new trade agreement between the EU and Mexico will cover more than 85% of the sectors which were not covered by the previous agreement, including agriculture. The only products excluded relate to the sugar sector. Mexico’s banana exports will obtain the preferential tariff of €75/ton. For fruits not yet liberalised, such as apples, full liberalisation will be achieved in ten years, with tinned peaches to be liberalised within 7 years.

The section on Agriculture contains a declaratory article on cooperation in international fora on matters related to trade in agriculture. It particularly regards exports restrictions which may affect the availability of supplies in the international markets. There is a second article on Export Competition reaffirming all Parties’ commitment to the WTO Nairobi Declaration, eliminating all export subsidies and those measures not allowed by the WTO agreements. It also establishes a mechanism of transparency and exchange of information.

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India’s bananas hit by wilt disease in Bihar and beyond

india banano

India’s banana farmers are reeling from the potential devastating effects of wilt disease, which is spreading across the country. The Tropical Race 4 (TR4) fungus strain which causes wilt disease in banana plants hit the world’s number one producer first in Cavendish plantations in Bihar, but subsequently in other areas too, such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

The authorities are scrambling to develop measures that can control the spread of the disease and the issue will be uppermost in discussion taking place at the National Conference on Agriculture for Kharif Campaign later this week.

India produces over 29% of the world’s bananas, with an estimated 30 million tons grown annually on 0.8 million hectares. TR4 is a soil-borne pathogen which infests strikes the roots of plants before spreading to the vascular system and blocking transportation of water and nutrients in the stem, resulting in yellowing of leaves and eventually plant death. It can remain in soil for decades and is extremely difficult to manage.


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Record in Peru’s banana exports

Peru’s banana exports in the first 10 months of last year were worth US $128.8 million, up 7% on the total for the same period in 2015.

Peru’s banana exports for January to October 2016 were the highest they’ve been for that period in the last five years, a record attributed to increases in its production and in demand in its principal markets.

According to exporter association ADEX, the country’s banana exports in the first 10 months of last year were worth US $128.8 million, up 7% on the total for the same period in 2015. It said the volume exported was also up about 7%.

The main market for Peru’s banana exports last year – accounting for a third of the total – was the Netherlands, for a value of US $43.3 million (up 8.8%). Second was the US, taking a 30.2% share valued at US $ 38.9 million.

Next came Germany with a 14% share ($17.9m), Belgium 9% ($11.2m), the Republic of Korea 4%, Finland, Japan, UK, Canada, the UAE, Italy, France, Mexico, China and Russia, followed by 24 more destinations.

Source of information and image: ADEX media release

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MEPs push Commission to better protect European banana sector


While Ecuador is negotiating with the European Union a downward revision of the tariff on bananas entering the EU market, the Commission on International Trade of the European Parliament has since October called for amendments to the regulation on the stabilisation mechanism for bananas and to better protect banana producers in the outermost regions.
Ecuador is the world’s top banana exporter and the protocol for its free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union was signed on November 11, opening the door in the EU for banana imports at very competitive prices.

Ecuador is able to offer high quality bananas in large quantities in the first half of the year, when retail demand for bananas is high. In 2015, it was already Europe’s number two supplier despite having a tariff handicap relative to its competitors in African, Caribbean and Central American countries. Andean countries such as Colombia and Peru could also import at a lower tariff.

The European Parliament has sought asked to amend the EU regulation on the stabilisation mechanism for bananas, created in trade negotiations between the EU and the countries of the Andean Community (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru). The stability mechanism’s annual trigger import volume has been exceeded on a number of occasions – by Peru in 2013 and 2014, and by Peru and Guatemala in 2015.

It has not been necessary to activate the mechanism, however, and no distortion was caused in the European market. Nevertheless, EU Member States maintain there have been considerable delays in alerting them when the annual trigger import volume has been exceeded.

In 2016 the trigger volumes of Peru and Guatemala will again possible be reached. There is no need to panic, however. Banana production in the outermost reaches of the EU are at record levels. The yearly aid mechanism worth €280 million a year for a production of 690,000 tons is successfully applied, certainly in the Canary Islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

In 2007, banana production in Guadeloupe and Martinique, which was still recovering from the Chlordecone crisis, was hit by hurricane Dean. With the support of the French government, the EU and regional authorities, the banana growers of UGPBAN (banana grower association of the French West Indies) decided to set up a global innovation plan to restore the banana industry, building on the principles of agroecology.

The plan has achieved its goals, with more than a 50% reduction in pesticide use and a noticeable comeback in animal biodiversity on banana farms. The promising results led UGPBAN to create, in addition to organic and fair trade labels, the Banane Française label, said to mark world’s ‘cleanest’ bananas. The Banane Française price has risen to €0.40 per banana. It is sold in packs of 3-6 bananas with a French flag sticker.

Similar initiatives took place on the Canary Islands, where the ‘Platano’ is promoted as a better banana. In this globalised world, the European banana is well prepared to face the challenge of cheap banana imports, but continued support from European authorities is needed.


‘Cassinelli: Acuerdo con la UE se firmará el 11 de noviembre’
‘La banane des antilles fait peau neuve’
‘Agroecological banana production in Guadeloupe and Martinique: from pesticide reduction to sales price improvement’, S. Zanoletti


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Innovation from AgroFresh reinvigorating an industry mainstay

The RipeLock™ Quality System delivers consistently high quality bananas to help drive sales.

Today’s produce market is often focused on newer, high-value categories, such as avocados and berries, as well as consumer convenience packaging. And while retailers are wise to keep up with consumer trends around these profitable products, it’s also critical not to lose focus on industry cornerstones such as bananas.

Innovation is happening in the banana industry as well. With bananas at the top of most supermarkets’ register rings, it pays to keep inventories and displays in exceptional form, according to AgroFresh Solutions, Inc., a global leader in food quality management.

“The banana category is the largest in retail produce, and serves as a driver for a retailer’s overall produce sales,” said André Vink, EMEA new business development manager for AgroFresh. “If the banana display looks appealing, customers tend to purchase more and feel confident in the quality and freshness of the other fruit in the store.”

New technology helps increase sales and reduces waste

Innovation from AgroFresh is revitalising the banana category — with technology proven to help sell bananas by giving them greater consumer appeal and a broader window of freshness.

The new RipeLock™ Quality System works with the banana’s natural ripening process to maintain optimal color significantly longer than conventional bananas. “RipeLock helps maintain bananas’ ideal visual and edible quality longer,” Vink said.

“This results in more appealing and marketable bananas, which, in turn, can generate higher revenue, improved operations and more repeat customers.”

A recent independent study with 160 consumers in the United Kingdom revealed how RipeLock positively affects banana taste and appearance, which are key factors in buying decisions. Seven out of 10 study participants preferred the quality of RipeLock bananas over regular, in-market bananas.

The study also demonstrated the ability of RipeLock to reduce retailer and in-home waste by maintaining fruit longer at the optimal color and flavor preferred by consumers.

Flexibility to manage fruit supply and labor costs

“The benefits of RipeLock go beyond simply enhancing and extending fruit quality,” Vink said. “It provides retailers and ripeners with the flexibility to manage their fruit supply and labor costs without changing standard handling practices.”

RipeLock is a patented system that offers flexibility and consistency to distributors, ripeners, retailers and consumers to handle and purchase bananas at their preferred ripeness stages.

Additionally, the RipeLock MAP bag maintains ideal humidity levels to extend banana green life while limiting the risk of rots and molds. It also prevents fruit dehydration and reduces fruit weight loss during shipping.

Applied at the final stage of the ripening cycle, the RipeLock application works synergistically with the uniquely-designed MAP environment inside the bags, helping retailers deliver bananas with consistently higher color grades with lengthened shelf life. Application is efficient and requires no extra handling in the ripening process, such as restacking boxes or cutting of vacuum pack bags.

“With RipeLock, you’ll maintain banana quality during backroom storage and have the flexibility to hold fruit longer while maintaining optimal quality for sale,” Vink said. “And store displays will show consistent appeal with fresh-looking bananas, even over the weekend, without restocking and extra deliveries.”

With its initial success, the RipeLock Quality System has gained considerable exposure in European markets and is now available in most European countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the UK  — in addition to the US and Canada. 

This article was first published in edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more banana and other fresh produce news from that issue at:


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Costa Rica seeks carbon neutrality

The banana sector in Costa Rica seeks a zero carbon footprint.

In the Costa Rican banana sector, both public and private institutions are working together to make headway towards production systems noted for a more efficient use of natural resources and for mitigation of greenhouse gases.

Their efforts fall within the national goal of making Costa Rica a carbon neutral country by 2021.

Tropical agriculture is also shouldering its responsibility as regards climate change. This is why most banana companies are well aware of the environment, above all Sura Green, which is a faithful representative of such values.

Sura Green: exemplary in sustainability

Sura Green’s loyalty to its collaborators, the community and the planet has led it to be recognised, obtaining certifications such as Rainforest Alliance and GlobalGAP since 2002.

In 2011, it managed to obtain verification of standard 14064:2006, making it one of the first banana farms verified as carbon neutral in Costa Rica. It is a company based on Costa Rican capital that began producing Cavendish bananas 28 years ago.

With 600 ha under cultivation, giving 1,800,000 boxes a year on average, it is capable of dispatching 30 to 42 containers a week.

Commercial director Grettel Zahner said Sura Green began selling fruit via big traders to the US and Europe.

“By taking part in international fairs, we began to open up new markets, managing to initiate relationships with Walmart in the US, to whom we sell 80% of the fruit. We sell the remaining 20% to Italy, Portugal, Poland, Russia, China and Aruba, among others, seeking to diversify the markets a little,” she said.

Banana production was hit hard in 2015 by the weather, but Zahner is optimistic about the upcoming season. “For next year, we want to consolidate the relationship we have with our current clients and to continue opening up new markets with direct clients, with no gobetweens.” 

Image of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: Rauldmo (assumed) Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

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Bananas de Mexico, now a brand and quality seal

bananas de Mexico

“Bananas de Mexico” is the new country brand launched in 2014 to promote fresh produce of Mexican origin.

Among the emblematic companies taking part in the “Bananas de Mexico” is the Cabal Group. Today the firm has 2600 hectares in production in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco and Colima, Mexico, equivalent to a weekly export volume of 100-140 container loads.

Carlos Cabal elucidates: “As a producer-exporter, we have always exported under the San Carlos brand, but in view of the customers we have and the European perception of Mexican origins we decided, with the backing of the Association, the Union and other producers, to create the “Bananas de Mexico” brand to promote the source.”

The main strategy to publicise the brand consisted of being present in Europe, through its trading office in Monaco, close to customers, offering them personalised treatment and post-sales service that ensures the highest quality standards. At the same time, it has a channel open with Mexico where the company has a production and quality office managing its own fruit as well as produce from associated farmers.

More focused on Europe

“As a company, we believe in exports and we believe in Europe, and we know that is a 52-week business. We are more focused on contracts than on spot sales,” Cabal said. The most significant market is the United Kingdom, followed by the Netherlands and other European countries, where their customers are supermarkets and they work hand-in-hand with the service provider.

The goal for 2016 is to lay the foundations for a more aggressive approach in 2017, exporting a shipload every week, placing fruit strategically to capture clients in different locations.

Images courtesy of

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Cameroon opens up to imports

The Cameroonian company UNAPAC, which produces bananas and pineapples, was one of the African market’s representatives invited to the French fair Medfel as importers.

The Cameroonian company UNAPAC, which produces bananas and pineapples, was one of the African market’s representatives invited to the French fair Medfel as importers.

“We have also begun our fruit import activity with French apples this year, with to 2 or 3 containers a week,” said Jean-Marie Sop.

With 23 million inhabitants, Cameroon is one of Africa’s stable markets and is accessible to imports, with a 20% customs duty. “The big retailers have also begun to get established, generating more imports,” Sop said.

Several French channels such as Casino, Leader Price and Système U are already present. UNAPAC also imports pears, table grapes and plums from Europe, as well as citrus from Morocco. France, Italy, Belgium and Spain are the main suppliers.

“The transit time from Le Havre is about 15 days, but we are hit by high freight cost that’s too high, around €3,500 per container.”

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Nahder & Ibrahim has over 5,000 acres of bananas under cultivation

Nahder & Ibrahim, Bahrain’s leading distributor of fruit and vegetables, has been successfully developing banana operations from the Philippines. L

Bahrain’s leading distributor of fruit and vegetables has been successfully developing banana operations from the Philippines.

Launched 12 years ago, this includes production on more than 5,000 acres of its own banana plantations, as well as distribution in Asian markets like China and Japan.

Nahder & Ibrahim also supplies all of the GCC countries, as well as Iran.

“To meet the demands of a growing market for fresh fruit, especially Cavendish bananas, we established NEH Philippines in 2001 in an innovative way.

The company has since built strong relationships with its growers, partners, and customers, “which has helped us to build a reputable name in the international fruit business,” said Abu Hassan.

This article first appeared in edition 143 (May/June 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more from that issue here: