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More than 60% of the bananas from the Dominican Republic are organicThursday, March 22, 2018 > 10:35:30
The Dominican Republic continues to be one of the biggest producers of bananas in the world, and more than 60% of the production it sells abroad is certified as organic. According to the General Directorate of Customs (DGA), during 2017 Honduran banana exports amounted to US $198.1 million. The main destinations were the United Kingdom (40%), Sweden (16%), and Belgium (15).
The United Kingdom's banana imports amounted to US $80.1 million, while Sweden imported US $32.2 million, and Belgium US $31.2 million. In 2017 exports decreased by 39% over the previous year due to the storms that hit the country at the end of 2016 and in 2017. In 2016 exports amounted to US $322.9 million and last year they totalled US $198.1 million, i.e. US $124.8 million less.
Despite this situation, the area devoted to bananas has increased by 29.8% (around 1,293 hectares) in the last three years, from 4,337 hectares in 2014 to 5,631 hectares in November 2017.
According to the president of the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD), Osmar Benitez, banana cultivation has experienced a quantitative and qualitative leap in the last five years. "The sowing area has grown, and there has been a process of productive reconversion in the Bajo Yaque area, on the Northwest," he said.
Benítez highlighted the increase in productivity per area planted, which went from less than 16 boxes per hectare a week, to more than sixteen. In exceptional cases, some farms even produce up to fifty six boxes per hectare.
The president of the JAD said that 63% of the bananas produced in the country was certified as organic and that another 20% was in the process of achieving this certification.
"It takes 18 to 24 months to change from traditional crops to organic farming, so about 83% of production will be of organic bananas by the end of this year," he said.
He said the organic bananas were more expensive than traditional ones. A box of conventional bananas costs around eight dollars at the farms, while a box of organic bananas can cost up to two dollars more.
Benitez stated that the country continued to be the world's largest exporter of organic bananas with more than 400,000 tons per year, and that no other country exported fair trade bananas like the Dominican Republic.
He also said that the rains had affected more than 5,000 hectares of crops, which had led to a 25% decrease in banana production, but that fortunately, producers had applied regrowth techniques in the affected areas and many of them are already in a stage of vegetative growth.
The outgoing director of the Center for Export and Investment of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD), Luis Henry Molina, said that in 2016 the Dominican produced almost 42 million hands of banana. In the same year, banana exports accounted for 72.1% of the country's total edible fruits exports.
The president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Montecristi (Asexbam), Felix Antonio Sanchez, stated that the production process for 2018 was a bit low, due to the atmospheric phenomena of last year, including the near passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Between 2012 and 2017 exports grew by approximately 35%, and the country exported around 350 thousand boxes of banana a week.
"Some countries, like Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Colombia have increased their production volumes and have a lower cost than ours. That's why we are working with producers so that they can produce more and be competitive," he added.
The president of the Monte de Sion Agricultural Association (Asamsi), Marcos Rodriguez, said that banana production in the Northwest area of the country had considerably decreased at the end of 2016 and during 2017, when it went from more than 400,000 boxes a week to less than 300,000, due to the storms that affected the country.
"Right now, we need liquidity so that producers can follow up on the crops. Before the storms, the producers in the North were harvesting all the boxes we needed, as this area accounts for 90% of the banana production, and goes from Santiago to Montecristi," he said.