Fresh Plaza reports from La Prensa:
Bolivia: Banana exports decrease by 4%
The value of banana exports between January and April 2017 fell by 4 percent when compared to the same period last year, according to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE).
The banana producers from the tropics said that the fall was due to the intense rains, the competition from other countries in the international market, a lack of investment in fumigations, an increase in production costs, and high transport prices.
In the first four months of this year, banana exports amounted to US $ 15.2 million, while in the same period of 2016 they totaled US $ 15.9 million, according to data provided by INE.
The manager of the Befrut SRL company, Roger Rocha, said that the drop in banana exports had become more frequent in recent years. According to him, between 2015 and 2016 banana exports from Cochabamba’s tropic decreased by about 500 thousand boxes.
95 percent of the banana production from the tropics is destined for the Argentine market. The remaining five percent is allocated to other countries in the region.
“In my opinion, the quality of the fruit from the Tropic of Cochabamba decreased, and we lost the positioning we had in the Argentine market, giving way to Paraguay, which is entering that market with a tremendous force,” Rocha said.
According to Rocha, there are three factors that make Bolivia less competent in relation to Paraguay’s banana production.
First, he said, the Bolivian product must be transported in refrigerated trucks to avoid the spread of pests, which is required by Argentine regulations, and increases expenses for banana farmers.
In addition, Bolivian producers have to ship their bananas packed in closed cartons, which is another additional cost. Finally, the transport distance is much longer between Bolivia and Argentina than from Paraguay to Argentina.
In turn, the president of the Community of Banana Organizations of the Tropics, Agustín Conde, said that Bolivian bananas supplied 30 percent of Argentine consumption. He also said that the Ecuadorian and Paraguayan competition wanted to reduce this percentage to 15 percent.
Conde said that the Bolivian product was at a disadvantage compared to its competition, as the Ecuadorian banana producers had technology that allows them to obtain better production results. A box of bananas from Bolivia costs $14.9 dollars in the Argentine market, one from Paraguay $11.8, and one from Ecuador $ 16.7.
We should not forget that current president of Bolivia, for the last 11 years, continues to remain as the leader/caudillo of the coca growers of the Chapare, undisputed vertical leadership. With total control of ALL State powers. So, it is clear his biased attitude protecting the coca crop vis-a-vis other crops.
This caudillo came to power through lengthy road blockades which damaged more the banana exports. So, competing with Ecuador under the above mentioned circumstances was a real challenge, if this export continues to struggle, it only shows that there are other products than coca, as an alternative to those former miners who are now the elite, privileged group under this populist and demagogue regime.
Alternative development could do very little as the coca growers’ union had ownership to the land, not the individual farmer, so they were told not to engage in other crops than coca … which goes to the very lucrative cocaine business …
I just hope banana as a legal crop can overcome its difficulties and continue to provide income to those farmers who know that engaging with the narcotraffick business is not sustainable.