Colombia hopes to boost its banana exports by 10% this year, which would bring in $1 billion in income for the world’s fifth-largest producer of the fruit, an industry official said on Wednesday.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the presence of the fusarium R4T banana fungus, Colombia exported 109 million 20-kilogram boxes of bananas last year, up 9.3% from 2019, boosting earnings by 6.5% to $916.2 million, said Emerson Aguirre, president of the Colombian Banana Growers Association.
“Although the banana industry was blighted by these two pandemics, our figures were positive versus 2019,” Aguirre told Reuters, adding that the export target for 2021 was 120 million 20-kg boxes.
Higher output followed greater productivity per hectare versus 2019, as well as better weather in the first half of the year in Uraba, Colombia’s principle banana-growing region.
Production per hectare rose to 2,134 boxes per hectare, 173 more boxes than in 2019.
Challenges for the sector this year include boosting productivity per hectare to that of other producers such as Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala, which reach close to 3,000 boxes per hectare, Aguirre said.
Bananas are the third most-important agricultural export in Colombia, behind coffee and flowers, he said.
In 2019, Colombia detected fungus fusarium tropical type 4, which causes the so-called Panama disease, or wilt, which attacks the roots of the Cavendish banana variety in the northern La Guajira province, where 190 hectares (470 acres) of the fruit were eradicated.
“The containment carried out has been effective,” Aguirre said, adding that in 2020 the fungus did not spread to other provinces and that control efforts would continue this year.
Colombia ended last year with 51,454 hectares of banana plants, 227 more than in 2019. Its main export destinations are the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom, Aguirre said.