Banana production fell by 16% in the first quarter of the year, compared to 2010, as a result of the season’s torrential rains, reported El Colombiano.
At a meeting of AUGURA, the Association of Banana Growers of Colombia, producers said that aside from areas devastated by flooding, the entire banana growing region of Uraba was saturated with water, causing the 16% reduction.
The rains in the Uraba region have also made it difficult for banana exporters to meet their fruit supplying obligations. Gabriel Harry Hinestroza, vice president of the AUGURA board, said that 10%, or 8,400, of the 84,000 hectares planted with bananas had been lost and would have to be replanted, at an estimated cost of $10 million.
Hinestroza also said that the devastation is impacting employment. “I calculate that, between January and March 2011, 1,000 jobs have been lost, which is too much for a sensitive area with a lot of social problems like Uraba.”
“The government has to stand beside us, and with the region, and it has to help us preserve jobs in this time of crisis.” said Victor Henriquez Velasquez, president of banana distributor Banacol. He added that another problem for growers is the strong peso which “constitutes a double blow for producers because with less productivity it is more difficult to diminish the fixed costs and the exchange rate doesn’t help.”
AUGURA President Roberto Hoyos Ruiz recently released a letter, which he sent to Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo Salazar on behalf of banana growers. In the letter, he asked the government to reestablish the Banana Health Initiative worth $1,000 per 2.5 acres, as a direct grant to banana growers for the increased costs of production due to the combination of the rainy season and the exchange rate.
Hoyos Ruiz said that the money would go towards fumigation to guard against the “sigatoka negra” plant pest, as well as towards improvement of drainage to decrease humidity in the plantations.
A message from President Juan Manuel Santos was read at the AUGURA meeting, in which the head of state said that, “We are doing everything possible to confront the revaluation of the peso compared to the dollar and the effects of the winter rains.”