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Peru a world leader in organic banana exports

Peru ranks second globally with its exports of organic bananas reaching US $73 million in the first half of last year

Peruvian banana exports totalled US $120 million in 2014, up 35% on the previous year, according to the Commission for the Promotion of Peruvian Exports and Tourism, PROMPERU. And organic bananas now account for 53% of all organic exports from Peru. The country has become the world’s second biggest exporter of organic bananas, logging trade worth US $73 million in the first half of 2015. Its main markets were the Netherlands with 42%, the US with 27% and Germany with 16%, followed by Belgium, Japan, Finland, South Korea, the UK, Canada and Chile. Shipments throughout the first half of 2015 were up 28% on the same period in 2014. Total certified organic production in Peru in 2014 covered 486,600 ha, around 7% of the total agricultural surface area. The supply mainly consists of bananas (26% growth), the most traded product, and mango (91%). The most important market for these products was the EU, which took 53% of total organic exports – shipped mainly to Holland (25%), Germany (15%), Belgium (6%) and Italy (3%) – followed by the US with a 33% share, as well as Canada, Estonia and Australia, and Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan.

Organic supply growing in value

In recent years, the global trend towards consumption of safe and healthy products has grown stronger. In keeping with this, over January– July, exports of Peruvian organic products reached US $110 million, which meant 7% growth on the same period in 2014, reports Eduardo Amorrortu, CEO of Exporters’ Association ADEX. In 2014, organic banana exports from Peru achieved turnover up 50% on 2013. Amorrortu highlighted a notable change in consumer patterns. “Today there are consumers willing to pay an additional price for these items, which is reason enough to develop and encourage special differentiation strategies.” He also added that opening up and accessing new markets is a dynamic process, driving stakeholders to continually enhance their competitive edge.


Peru flag map: CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

This article appeared on page 82 of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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BAMA going greener on banana imports

The Norwegian market leader for sales of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries and potatoes, BAMA, JB, Group (BAMA Gruppen AS) is actively promoting the Norwegian potato and on bananas moving to more environmentally-friendly transport.

The banana and the potato are respectively the fruit and vegetable that BAMA Group sells the most of. Here, in the second part of our latest coverage of BAMA, we look at what the Oslo-based trading group is doing in regard to these high volume products.

Promoting the Norwegian potato

One of the largest projects in 2014 for BAMA Industry was the expansion of BAMA’s potato production site in Rygge, which was set to double its production capacity via an increase in area to 5,200 m2 by August 2015. BAMA is adopting a major focus on product and variant development and new technology to further promote the Norwegian potato.

Asked why BAMA had made this a priority, BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen told ED that: “Potatoes are the largest product group volume-wise and an important category for BAMA, and they are a healthy product. Our strategy is to increase consumption, especially through product development (processed potatoes), new varieties and by inspiring consumers by marketing tasty ways of preparing potatoes.”

In its 2014 annual report, BAMA said one of BAMA Industry’s most exciting innovations last year was the a range of sous-vide potato products which helped boost potatoes sales.

Bananas: ad campaign brings 6% volume growth

The average Norwegian eats 16.5 kgs of bananas each year, making the banana is the most popular fruit in Norway and BAMA’s largest fruit category, representing 25% of its total fruit volume. In 2014, BAMA ran an ad campaigns that included TV spots with simple messages and information promoting bananas’ health benefits and versatility with a volume increase of 6% the result.

Bananas: Increases in sales on previous year
2014: Volume 6%, value 12%
2013: Volume 7%, value 8%

BAMA achieved this growth despite a tough year “reflected in more unstable international container traffic, with slower transports due to route changes, problems with profitability and stricter controls at EU borders.” The situation created “challenges in getting ­bananas ripened on time, and our ripeners have performed an incredible job every single day to ensure that bananas are shipped out the right colour,” BAMA said in its annual report.

Move to more rail transport

All BAMA’S bananas are imported from South American countries and BAMA says that together with its suppliers, it is taking responsibility for ensuring its production occurs in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way possible. “All our suppliers are obliged to comply with international GLOBALG.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices) standards for sustainability and food safety within farming and production,” it said in the report.

It has always transported bananas from South America to Europe by ship, a journey of about nine days. “For many years bananas were transported in container ships to Europe, and freighted onwards by lorry to Norway. In 2009 we changed our transport policy so that the containers were freighted by ship all the way to Norway. Lorries are only used from the harbour in Oslo to our ripening plant. The switch reduced CO2 emissions equivalent to the average annual emissions of 16,800 private vehicles.”

“Rail transport is generally held to be the most environmentally friendly way to transport goods. Our target is for 50% of our incoming transport to be made via inter-modal solutions by 2020. Today this figure is around 12%. When the bananas are ripe and ready to be transported to various parts of Norway, they are increasingly conveyed by rail. In 2014 more than half of our freight was transported to Northern Norway by train. In Costa Rica around 40% of the bananas that Dole produces are transported by train. This form of transport is estimated to be 35% more efficient than road transport,” BAMA said.

Success with ready-to-eat avocados and mangoes

BAMA started offering avocado and mango in 2005 and these products have been a huge hit with its consumers in Norway, where annual per capita consumption greatly outstrips that in the Netherlands and Germany, for instance. BAMA’s avocado sales have increased 400% in volume since then and those of mangos by 600%.
It began offering ready-to-eat avocados and mangoes in 2008, with similar success. Its sales of ready-to-eat avocadoes reached just over 6,000 tons last year, up 170% in 6 years. “Nature’s Pride, our supplier, has been the key to this ripening success,” Flaen said. The Dutch company’s new terminal in Rotterdam is home to nearly 50 ripening sheds, ensuring “the avocados that arrive in Norway have just the right tenderness and appeal.”

sources: BAMA Group 2014 annual report information and phone interview with BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen

Read part 1: Fresh cuts and berries among priorities for BAMA


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Asia: Still much greater things to come

Asia will be the standout growth opportunity for the global fresh produce trade in the next decade, and its ever-increasing demand is set to have a much greater influence on world suppliers and markets.

Asia’s impressive rise as a fresh fruit importer has been impressive over the last two decades, as highlighted at the latest Asiafruit Congress.

Asia will be the standout growth opportunity for the global fresh produce trade in the next decade, and its ever-increasing demand is set to have a much greater influence on world suppliers and markets.

That was one of the key messages left ringing in the ears of delegates to the last Asiafruit Congress in Hong Kong, which attracted close to 350 industry decision makers from 34 different countries, celebrating its 20th Anniversary.

Panelist John Piper, founder of Hong Kong-based Food Asia Marketing, agreed, suggesting the fruit trade would continue to grow despite recent concerns about an economic slowdown in Asia. “Despite previous global economic dips, Asia has seemed to sail through,” he said. “In Asia, fruit imports are a luxury, but they’re a little luxury that people can afford and will continue to pay for.”

Nick Kukulan, president of Paramount Export Co, was also upbeat, noting that appreciation of fruit and vegetables in Asia, particularly for their taste and aesthetic qualities, was “unmatched” in any other part of the world. “Asian consumers have been a driving force for development of varieties in the US, whether it be with white-flesh peaches or grapes; it’s an incredible place to do business if you follow what consumers want in terms of taste and texture.”

More stimuli for growth, despite recent financial “correction”

Geoff Green, head of Capespan Global Procurement, shared his first-hand insights into the impact on the global supply base, particularly for Southern Hemisphere suppliers who have been shipping much more of their produce to Asia to meet counter-seasonal demand.

“Asia seems to be the only thing on growers’ minds now, whether it’s in Peru, Chile, South Africa or India,” said Green. “With everything being planted, the only thing on the growers’ minds is the Asian markets. They’re no longer planting varieties as they did before for Europe and the UK.”

While acknowledging that China’s economy was undergoing “a long overdue correction”, Piper urged everyone to keep ‘the bigger picture’ in sight. Looking to the next ten years, he said the challenge would not be to grow the market for fresh produce imports in Asia, but rather to keep pace with demand.

Marketing health: a ‘capitalist’ opportunity

Clint Smith of The Silk Initiative and Zhongxing Zhang of McCann Health explained how marketing the health and nutritional benefits of fresh produce in Asia could deliver sales growth.

Smith said Chinese consumers are very conscious about the heating and cooling properties of foods as well as their natural medicinal properties. “It’s about keeping a balance between heating and cooling properties,” he explained. “There’s also much work to be done to educate consumers on less familiar fruit and vegetables.” “Most of us know avocados are very nutritious but when they first came to China, people didn’t like them,” said Smith.

Zhang followed on from Smith’s advice, urging delegates not to be so modest when it comes to promoting the health benefits of fruit. “Let consumers see the link between fruit and its health benefits,” Zhang said. “Communication needs to be changed; nobody has told consumers the health aspects of each specific fruit.”

China’s banana market: opportunities in Southeast Asia

Goodfarmer’s Liu Zijie painted a picture of the opportunity to develop China’s banana market with perspectives for domestic production. Vanessa Perez of Austrade Philippines and Edgar Fernandez from the Philippines retailer Rustan Supercenters outlined the market opportunities in this rapidly emerging South East Asian economy. James Christie of US-based market development agency Bryant Christie also led a breakout session on the changing landscape in terms of maximum residue levels across Asian countries, with expert insights from colleague Matt Lantz and from John Chapple of Hunter Food and Agriculture Services.

China & Taiwan: huge markets for NZ cherries

Taiwan and China are the main two markets for NZ Cherry Corp with approximately 60% of its volume going to these two markets. Chinese customers seek big, red, firm and juicy cherries, it reports. “We believe we have the best quality from NZ and are in a good position to provide the size, quality and packing the customers need. We harvested 510 tons this year and we expect a better season for the coming year, thanks to an increasing number of growers in our company. We are currently working on some projects to increase our production quantity.”

Asia: a growing opportunity for Indian produce too

Asia is also giving growing market opportunities for Indian produce. One of its top 7 exporters, Seven Stars Fruit, confirms they are already exporting to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the ME market too, though their main export market is Europe, especially the UK and Germany. “This is our 2nd time at AFL. We are here to find new opportunities for grapes, pomegranates and onions in South East Asia. This year, we have also started a banana plantation of 35 ha to get year-round production and we expect the first harvest in April 2016,” say their managers.

Seven Stars Fruit is a major exporter of Indian fruit, especially pomegranates, table grapes, mangoes and bananas, and they are looking for opportunities in onions and potatoes in the Far East and Russian. Last year, Seven Stars Fruit exported table grapes from a total production area of 1,200 ha, and pomegranates from an area of 200 ha. Seven Stars works closely with growers and has developed the web app “Farm View” for growers, the production team and their customers, which will help to monitor production on the farms, packing operations and traceability for their customers. This will ensure monitoring of pesticide residues and food safety, which are major concerns for the EU market.


This interview first appeared on p38-39 of edition 139 (Sept/Oct 2015) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more of that issue online by clicking on the image of it here:


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China’s banana consumption doubles over a decade to 9.5kg per capita

China’s per capita consumption doubles over a decade from 5 to 9.5kg, and imports quadruple to 1.5 billion tons.

China is the third largest banana-producing country in the world after India and Brazil, but ahead of Ecuador, the largest banana-exporting country. The banana is a major cash plant in southern China and has earned a good reputation among consumers, fostering employment for over 2 million people. Over the last 10 years in the southern equatorial Chinese areas, mainly in Guangdong and Hainan provinces, 12 million tons of fresh bananas have been produced on an area of 413,000 hectares now, up from 295,000 ha in 2006. In the same period, the yield per ha has increased by almost 20% to 29 tons/ha. It is said that China has now reached its maximum production capacity. The land suitable for banana planting is exhausted, while some areas are susceptible to tropical storms and even typhoons and flooding. Also, China’s domestic banana production capacity is unlikely to expand significantly due to constraints on transportation, labour and environmental costs. Over the last decade, the banana industry has feared the outbreak of a banana plant virus on the continent called Panama Tropical Race 4 disease, which could spread quickly in the main commercial production areas of the Cavendish banana. Today, the Chinese population of 1.4 billion consumers is getting richer and needs more fresh fruit as they recognize its health benefits. The consumption of all fruit is increasing, including bananas. Chinese consumption of bananas is catching up with the rest of the world, last year reaching 9.5 kg per capita and per year, compared to the U.S. with 13 kg and the EU with 11 kg. Domestic production meets the vast majority of China’s demand, with only 5-8% satisfied by imports. In the second half of 2014, the El Niño effect appeared in force, bringing drought to the Western Pacific region. Banana production on technified banana farms in South China and neighboring countries like the Philippines saw reduced yields.

High costs with domestic supplies

Local produce is fighting for its market share against imports as it faces higher costs of transporting bananas from some major production areas to the north-eastern cities. Banana imports increased substantially in 2014, even in the southern city of Shanghai. During the first seven months of 2015, imports rose by 30% and reached 715,000 tons, of which 200,000 tons were Ecuadorian bananas. At the same pace, China will import 1.46 million tons this year, almost three times the amount in 2013, taking a 12% market share. Dalian is the main banana port in north-eastern China, where the major banana companies have their logistical hubs. Dole Philippines leads with the largest market share. The Sumitomo group from Japan ranks second and has its own large-scale banana plantation in the Philippines with the banana brand ‘Gracio’. It takes 30-40 days to ship bananas to China from Ecuador, but the Ecuadorian banana’s competitive pricing versus Philippine bananas has led many importers to make the switch.

Stronger demand ahead for Ecuadorian bananas

The demand for Ecuadorean bananas is rising and it may continue to grow strongly in the years ahead. Indeed, the major shipping lines have made extra reefer space available. CMA-CGM is now offering a new service provid- „Peru, world’s second largest organic banana exporter Peruvian banana exports amounted to US $120 million in 2014, representing an increase of 35% on the previous year and a 53% share of total Peruvian organic exports, reports PromPeru. The country is now positioned as the second largest exporter of organic bananas worldwide. The main destination markets were the Netherlands with 42%, the USA with 27% and Germany with 16%, followed by Belgium, Japan, Finland, South Korea, the UK, Canada and Chile. In the first half of 2015, shipments of this product amounted to US $ 73 million, in other words 28% more compared to the same period in 2014. ing faster and more direct access to the Chinese market, with controlled atmosphere reefer containers guaranteeing fresh quality on arrival. The ship arrives in Guayaquil from China carrying electronics, toys, raw materials, and general consumer goods. It leaves Ecuador bound for Mexico, then South Korea and China, carrying a shipment of Ecuadorean bananas. However, banana growers in several neighboring countries in south-eastern Asia (such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia) also seek an outlet and are looking to enter China. Demand for higher quality imports will get stronger, particularly in the big cities. Chinese producers have been warned: an upgrade to their cold chain management system is mandatory. 


This article originally appeared on page 74 of edition 139 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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EU High Court fixes €9.8M banana cartel fine on Del Monte & Weichert

Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and a previous distributor must pay a fine of €9.8 million for fixing banana prices between 2000 and 2002, following a decision by the European Union’s highest court.

Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and a previous distributor must pay a fine of €9.8 million for fixing banana prices between 2000 and 2002, following a decision by the European Union’s highest court.

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice reversed an earlier decision by the General Court to reduce the fine by 10%.

The General Court had granted the 10% reduction of the fine to Del Monte and the previous distributor, Hamburg-based Internationale Fruchtimport Gesellschaft Weichert GmbH & Co. KG (Weichert), in respect of Weichert’s cooperation during the European Commission’s investigation into a banana cartel.

But the higher court said the General Court made an error in law by granting the reduction… “to Del Monte and Weichert in respect of Weichert’s cooperation during the administrative procedure, even though Weichert’s conduct could not be regarded as revealing a genuine spirit of cooperation.”

Among its findings, the European Court of Justice said “Weichert merely replied to a simple request for information, it is clear that it did not provide information to the Commission without having been requested to do so.”

It said that a fine reduction “…is justified only where an undertaking provides information to the Commission without being asked to do so. It is established case-law that the conduct of the undertaking concerned must not only facilitate the Commission’s task of establishing the existence of the infringement but also reveal a genuine spirit of cooperation…”

“Any other interpretation would undermine both the purpose and the incentive effect of the leniency provisions as, first, it would have the effect of granting to all parties participating in a cartel a reduction of the fine if they provided to the Commission, at the Commission’s request, useful information and/or evidence and, second, it would encourage undertakings to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach rather than supplying the Commission, on their own initiative, and as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, with such information and evidence.”

Background to cartel probe

According to information published by the Commission, the cartel investigation started with surprise inspections in 2005, prompted by an application for immunity by Chiquita.

“The Commission found that banana importers Chiquita, Dole and Weichert participated in a cartel between 2000 and 2002 in violation of Article 101 TFEU. The cartel members coordinated the setting of their quotation prices for bananas in eight EU Member States.

“At the time of the infringement, Weichert was trading mainly Del Monte branded bananas and was 80% owned by Del Monte. The cartel affected Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Sweden, where the combined retail value of bananas sold in 2002 amounted to around €2.5 billion,” it said.

In a press release in 2008, the Commission said that the banana business is organised in weekly cycles. “During the relevant period the importers of leading brands of bananas into the eight EU Member States principally served by North European ports set and then announced every Thursday morning their reference price (their “quotation price”) for the following week.

“On numerous occasions over the three year period there were bilateral phone calls among the companies, usually the day before they set their price. During these calls the companies discussed or disclosed their pricing intentions: how they saw the price evolving or whether they intended to maintain, increase or decrease the quotation price.”


European Court of Justice judgment
European Commission


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Foul weather dampens Del Monte’s Q1 profit

Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc has cited higher banana procurement costs, lower pineapple yields, and tomato and grape quality issues – caused by adverse weather – as factors which reduced its first quarter earnings.

Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc has cited higher banana procurement costs, lower pineapple yields, and tomato and grape quality issues – caused by adverse weather – as factors which reduced its first quarter earnings.

The Florida-based fresh produce multinational reported on Monday that its gross profit was $100.4 million and operating income $56.3 million in the quarter to March 27, down from $106.7 million and $65.2 million respectively in the first quarter of 2014.

But on the positive side, net sales for the quarter rose above $1 billion, helped by a 4% increase in those for bananas, which Del Monte said was primarily driven by higher sales in North America.

For other fresh produce, net sales for the quarter were up 2% to $464.6 million, primarily due to higher sales volume in the company’s non-tropical, tomato and fresh-cut product lines, it said. Net sales of tomatoes jumped up 38% to $26.5 million. The volume increased 97% but pricing was down 30% as adverse weather in Del Monte’s production areas in North America and Chile took its toll, it said.

Despite the challenges, CEO Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh said Del Monte had made progress toward long-term initiatives during the quarter, “with positive growth in our banana business, increased volume in several product lines in our other fresh produce business and strategic improvements in the prepared food business in Europe.”

Screenshot 2015-04-29 at 19.17.27.png

Source: Del Monte press release April 28, 2015

Banana photo: By Mschel (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



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Banana sector logistics and challenges

Screenshot 2015-03-25 at 13

Shipping alliances to play a leading role

Shipping companies plying the banana export routes now also have to deal with the challenge of cutting costs in the face of falling ocean freight rates. Forging alliances will be a strong strategy to maintain competitive edge. One of the most important has been put forward by Maersk and MSC, with an alliance likely to move around a third of all banana cargoes through the world’s most heavily trafficked trade routes, which will bring enormous benefits, including a substantial reduction in operating costs.

Maersk proposes merger strategies

“You need to think inside the box”, says Thomas Eskesen, Reefer Ship Managing Director from Maersk Line, one of the leading companies in the sector, operating in 252 ports worldwide, in 75 countries. Eskesen has analysed the challenges faced in an increasingly demanding world, where consumers expect very high standards in terms of the quality and speed with which produce reaches them. In this sense, he noted that in Maersk there is still room for improvement in some areas, while new services and tools need to be incorporated in order to stay competitive, although they do have interesting strategies to achieve this. “It’s not only about defence, but also playing offensively; you need to unite in order to expand.” He explains that this way of “thinking inside the box” means that it is necessary to examine ways to improve the company “from the inside”, considering all the resources available and the information to hand. “Today we are trying to identify the root of the problem, attempting to analyse the data that we have and solve the problem along with the client we provide our services to, working together with a common goal, which is the only way to keep the customer satisfied”, adds Eskesen.

Port of Antwerp is strategic entry point for banana in Europe

The main port of entry in Europe for Ecuadorian bananas is Antwerp in Belgium, located very close to the three major fruit consumer markets on the continent (Rungis, Venlo and Duisburg). Representative Germán Calderón explains how “72 hours before the ship’s arrival, the process of releasing the goods begins and, within 24 hours of unloading, the produce is ready for delivery to any of these three big markets, unlike the Port of Rotterdam, which moreover suffers congestion issues, so much so that this year a significant percentage of vessels which used to dock there had to do so in Antwerp.” He also mentioned that the arrival of the fruit through Belgium allows delivery of the produce between 6 and 12 hours faster than if it was channelled through any other port in northern Europe.

New opportunities in banana route to Russia

On the other hand, Russia, with steadily growing per capita annual consumption in recent years, represented a great opportunity for the Ecuadorian banana sector, which has enjoyed a growing share in this market and is now the leading banana exporter to this country. The fruit is mostly traded and shipped in refrigerated containers and mainly enters through the port of St. Petersburg. Forecasts for 2015 point to 41% growth in banana uptake by Russian traders, equivalent to 10.6 kg of banana annually per capita. Vasiliy Shultsev, Sales and Marketing Manager for Global Ports, notes that “the port of St. Petersburg has special facilities for handling this commodity. We handle all transport of the product, even to the remotest locations in Russia, ensuring that the quality is maintained.”

More routes with the Mediterranean

The Marseille-based company is also strengthening its web of routes between southern Europe/Morocco and northern Europe/Russia, on which it uses 1300 reefer boxes. CGA-CGM already owned MacAndrews, acquired in 2002, and has just bought OPDR – which operates similar shortsea services, particularly from Morocco, the Canary Islands and the Iberian Peninsula – from the German shipowner Bernhard Schulte. “This increases our capacity and our commercial strength,” highlighted Michel, “allowing us to develop services that can compete with road transport. Even if our rotation is less flexible than with HGVs, our ships offer cheaper and more environmentally-friendly solutions.” Sea freight currently accounts for 10% of Spain’s fruit and vegetable exports, for instance. At the close of 2014, OPDR should have carried over 240,000 TEU and MacAndrews over 290,000. CGACGM, which carries 10% of the world’s reefer traffic, will have turnover of $16 billion this year (€13 billion), slightly up on last year “although our margins are lower owing to market pressure,” Michel pointed out. CGA-CGM handles the rotation of 10.6 million TEU (traditional and reefer) around the world, in 1.54 million containers carried by 429 ships, 83 of them owned by the company, serving 450 ports of call in 150 countries.


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Developing economies: key to the future?

Screenshot 2015-02-27 at 20

After record exports in 2014, experts are looking at where new markets can be found for banana leader Ecuador
Banana exports worldwide totalled 872.9 million boxes in the last campaign, representing 4.4% growth compared to 2012. Some 74.3% came from Latin America, where Ecuador is the undisputed leader with 259.3 million boxes, followed by Costa Rica with 106, Guatemala with 104.1, Colombia 95.5 and Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Nicaragua bringing up the rear.

The forecasts fulfilled for 2014 show greater growth in global production, which would be 6.3 %, equivalent to 927.8 million boxes, with the lion’s share going to Latin America, Asia, ACP and the European Union at similar percentages to 2013.

What is striking is the Latin American countries’ share in this growth. As in previous years, Ecuador leads the field in banana exports, but with a remarkable growth of 13.8%, representing 295 million boxes, a figure forecast to reach over 300 million for 2015.

Guatemala would be the second largest exporter in 2014 and 2015 with 114.5 and 123 million boxes respectively, with Costa Rica in third place at 107.5 and 105, a slight drop in the second year analysed.

The other producing countries hold the same positions as in previous years. So, pride of place in Latin America’s share in the banana trade goes to Ecuador with 42.9%, followed by Guatemala with an average of 17 % for both years, Costa Rica with 15 % and Colombia with 12.8%.

Read the rest of this article on page 78 of edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine.

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Slight growth in US banana imports


Guatemala remains top US banana source

US banana imports inched up just under 1% last year to nearly 4.9 million tons, with Guatemala remaining the top supplier.
Figures from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) also show that compared to 2013, the biggest growth was in imports from Peru, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, while the totals from Panama, Colombia and Honduras fell.


2012 tons

2013 tons

2014 tons

% 14-13











Costa Rica








































El Salvador











Guatemala, which has a competitive edge thanks to its proximity to the US, was the source of nearly 36% of total US banana imports, followed by Ecuador with 18.5% and Costa Rica with 16.9%.

Banana imports 2014.png

US imports of agricultural products from Guatemala totaled US$1.8 billion in 2013 with leading categories including bananas and plantains ($729 million), coffee (unroasted) ($411 million), fresh fruit (excluding bananas) ($182 million), and processed fruit and vegetables ($108 million).

US banana production is very limited, with Hawaii by far its largest banana producer.


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BORRAR 512px-Japan_flag_-_variant

Bananas, citrus and pineapples lead Japan’s fruit imports

Japan has always been very dependent on imports, especially for food and even more so for fresh produce. The total value of its fresh produce imports in 2012 was $2.5 billion, which included about 1.86 million tons of fruit and 862,082 tons of vegetables.


The leading imported fruits in Japan are bananas (59%), citrus (20%) and pineapples (9%). Most of the bananas are from the Philippines. Among citrus varieties, the leading import is the grapefruit, though Japanese people are increasingly preferring oranges. In 2013, 67% of imported citrus in Japan came from the US, 30% from Australia and 2.4% from South Africa, for a total volume of 30,745 tons.


The fastest growth in fresh produce imports in Japan is in avocados, which rose by 25% in 2012. Because it favours domestic produce, Japan imports only small amounts of products that it grows itself – such as stone fruit, apples and cherries.


Fruit imports in Japan, 2012 (tons)

Bananas 1,096,538, Pineapples 174,041, Grapefruit 151,413, Oranges 130,422, Kiwifruit 63,970, Avocados 58,555, Lemons & limes 55,895



Vegetables imports in Japan, 2012 (tons)

Onions 342,710, Pumpkin & squash  125,024, Cabbage 84,110, Carrots 82,051, Leeks 56,400



Due to its small land mass and high population density, Japan lacks an agricultural sector strong enough to export significant volumes. But of the fresh produce it does export, fruit is the leading type, especially apples, mandarins and pears. In 2012, it exported about 14,015 tons of fruit and just 956 tons of vegetables.

Japanese retailers undergoing concentration

Japan’s retail sector has been quite stable in the past few years, even if regional retailers, such as Universe and Hokkaido’s ARCS, have tended to merge to compete with national players such as AEON and Ito-Yokado, which both represent 40% of total Japanese retail. The top 5 national companies – AEON, Ito-Yokado, Uny, Daiei and Life Corp. – together woo 62% of food sales.

Nationwide retailers, including AEON and Ito-Yokado, generally source their foods through importers and wholesalers.


Consumption in Japan – elders are big spenders


Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs figures show nearly a quarter of household spending in Japan is on food. Japanese people value local products and in particular high quality and premium produce. The recent ecological disasters there have also increased awareness of environmental issues and safe production standards.

Japanese consumers can be split into two main groups: young active people and elders. In the last few years, a big range of healthy and ready-to-eat fresh produce has been developed to cater for each of these segments.

AEON is particularly targeting elders by opening its stores two hours earlier and with special deals attracting more of them onsite.

This is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared on page 26 of our latest issue, available online here. Each edition of Eurofresh Distribution magazine features a country profile providing insights into the opportunities and trends in different world markets.