Company in Costa Rica Seeks to Transform Plantain Trunks into Pallets


A group of Costa Rican banana growers met with Dutchmen Hein Van Opstal and Gert Kema to tell them about the shortage of timber in the tropics and the difficulty of getting good quality pallets.

This meeting was the starting point for the creation of Yellow Pallet, a company that has been established in Costa Rica with the objective of producing pallets for export from components made with the fibre of banana trunks.

The company was born in 2012, but it was not until 2018 when its first factory started operations in Siquirres, Limón, after an initial investment of US$ 3 million and the hiring of 15 people.

They still have not placed the product on the market, but it could happen at the  end of May, and initially they are planning to present a hybrid offer that will include nine pallets made with their "recipe" and the rest with wood.  "30% of the wood in a pallet is replaced, which translates into cost savings," explained Van Opstal.

When they start marketing, they must compete with other companies that offer pallets for export in Costa Rica.

According to the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter, exports of wooden pallets in 2019 represented 23,866 tons (8% less than in 2017, but 7% more than in 2016).

Yellow Pallet aims to take a portion of the market with its banana fibre product, offering a lower price and a more environmentally friendly product than those made of 100% wood.

The company estimates that the factory in Costa Rica will sell 1.7 million pallets per year.  Despite these positive plans, the company is aware that the struggle with financing will continue. "Financing has been a great challenge and continues to be so, initial capital is not easy to find and growth capital expects sales and deliveries to customers," said the Yellow Pallet representative.  Its current facilities in Limón include an 8.8 hectare plantation, a 720 m² plant and a 900 m² plant nursery.

From now on they plan to increase the investment in Costa Rica with US$ 7 million for the expansion of the factory, a warehouse, an office and a road system.

After consolidating their business in Costa Rica, the Dutch entrepreneurs want to open factories in other countries where bananas are grown and need export pallets including Ecuador, Colombia, the Philippines, Guatemala, China, India and Brazil.

Yellow Pallet is currently only dedicated to making small blocks made from a mixture of 95% banana fibre and 5% resin.

The process of making the blocks starts with getting the fibres from the banana trunks (species Musa balbisiana).


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