Up to 3,000 banana plantation workers in northern Colombia may lose their jobs as the future of the country’s banana industry is no longer certain, according to a local NGO.
According to the NGO, Banana Link, the crisis stems from “producers [who] sell their fruit in US dollars and pay nearly all their costs in Colombian pesos.” The report mentioned that the rise in the peso’s value against the dollar over the last year, coupled with serious climatic disruption at the end of 2011 and early 2012, meant increased costs to all producers.
Guillermo Rivera Zapata, president of Sintrainagro, an agricultural workers union in Colombia, noted that the industry provides 100,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the country. He claimed that cutbacks were responsible for the loss of 4,000 jobs in 2012.
Both the union leader and a number of entrepreneurs share the opinion that the government must take note and intervene, like they have done in the coffee industry. According to some, the newly unemployed workers are susceptible to recruitment from criminal groups.
Rivera called the state of the industry “a time bomb [waiting to] explode.”
Uraba has the second largest rate of unmet basic needs in Colombia with 53.18% of the population living in poverty.
The Colombian government has put forward proposals to combat the issue, such as diversifying crops and introducing pineapple, palm oil and cocoa to the area.