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FAO Forecasts Rise in World Production and Trade in Tropical Truits

10.5.2019

As the world's largest exporter of bananas and tropical fruits and the second largest producer in the world, Latin America and the Caribbean is particularly well positioned to benefit from the expected growth in international demand for these products, the FAO said on Thursday. According to the latest FAO Food Outlook report (English only), the large portion of land in the region's tropical belt and its proximity to the United States - the largest market for major tropical fruits - should translate into strong prospects for the growth of production, driven by exports.

World production and trade of major tropical fruits (mangoes, pineapples, avocados and papayas) is expected to increase due to higher incomes and change in consumer preferences in many domestic and import markets, as well as improvements in the links of international transport and in charging technology.

On the negative side, the effects of climate change and extreme and highly damaging climatic conditions threaten the production potential of the region, particularly in the Caribbean, where small island states are especially vulnerable to the destructive effects of increasingly frequent tropical storms. 

Another threat is the growing prevalence of pests and diseases affecting plants, since the industrialized production systems of bananas and pineapples are considerably more susceptible to rapid and widespread outbreaks. Of particular concern is the risk of the fusarium fungus (Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4) in the cultivation of bananas, which until now has been limited to plantations in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, but concerns producers in the Americas region.

According to FAO, the effect of trade on development will depend on the fair inclusion of small producers and on fair wage levels for workers employed in these industries.

According to the report, some 200,000 rural families participate directly in Guatemala's banana production and benefit from it, while around 80% of avocado production in Mexico is carried out by small farmers. Securing remunerative prices and fair wages, improving the productivity of small farmers and their bargaining power, increasing resilience to climate disasters and other shocks, and linking remote production sites to markets are essential to ensure inclusive growth and sustainable rural development.

The regional trade of tropical fruits, in numbers On average, approximately 25% of the total world production of bananas and tropical fruits originates in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an annual production volume of approximately 54 million tons between 2016 and 2018 (average of three years). With a combined annual total per capita consumption of 55 kg of bananas and other tropical fruits, the region is also one of the main consumers of these fruits worldwide.

More importantly, shipments of bananas and the main tropical fruits from suppliers in Latin America and the Caribbean account for approximately 75% of world exports, with a total annual average volume of 25 million tons during the triennium of 2016 to 2018. Of these, approximately 80% goes to the markets of developed countries, mainly the United States of America and the European Union. It is estimated that the total value of banana exports and of the main tropical fruits of Latin America and the Caribbean reaches around $ 11 billion in 2016-2018, of which bananas and avocados accounted for around $ 6 billion and $ 3.5 billion, respectively.

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