Guatemalan Banana Industry on Strong Rise


Banana farms of the Hame group in Guatemala are among the most productive not only in the Central American country but also internationally, some produce up to 98 tons per hectare per year, as explained by Hugo Molina Botrán, director of the group. 

“For years, most growers followed the traditional path of meeting market requirements through certifications such as Global-GAP and Rainforest Alliance, however, over time, we have realized that the efforts of sustainability were not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do,” said the group leader. 

For example, during times when drought-affected farmers’ ability to irrigate farms and reduced productivity levels, the company realized the importance of protecting riverbeds, so it decided to implement better water systems. Water management, thus evidencing the need to implement conservation initiatives. Soon after, the company implemented reforestation plans, adjusted irrigation sprinklers, and recalibrated irrigation procedures using field data meters, which were able to meet the specific needs of each farm. 

These actions not only restored productivity but also significantly reduced irrigation costs, thereby helping the environment. On this topic, Molina stated: “Although sustainability efforts required an initial capital outflow, this is an excellent example of the long-term recovery of lower operating costs. Today, all the water used in the packing plant is processed and recycled on the farms”. 

The company has also made significant progress in reducing the use of fossil fuels. Last year, more than 60 percent of its energy consumption came from biogas, generated from production waste from its palm oil operations. Starting this year and gradually, the rest of your energy needs will come from solar panels. 

Currently, the industry faces two monumental challenges, Fusarium Wilt (TR4) and Coronavirus. To prevent the entry of TR4, the company has intensified hygiene and disinfection procedures and has limited entry to banana operations, allowing only essential personnel to enter. 

All this, in addition to the group’s measures against Covid-19, implemented to comply with the World Health Organization recommendations. 

During the Coronavirus health emergency, the company demonstrated its strong commitment to safeguarding its employees and their families, as it implemented the biosafety and hygiene protocols established in the Plan for the Prevention, Containment, and Response of Coronavirus cases in Guatemala. 

In the search for innovative long-term solutions to fight TR4, the company plans a semi-commercial trial to increase soil biodiversity on its banana farms. The goal is to add beneficial microorganisms that help restore soil biology. These new organisms will compete and neutralize harmful pathogens and insects, which will also reduce the need for chemicals to continue Grupo Hame’s commitment to reduce the annual use of agrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers. 

During 2020 and in the coming years, Grupo Hame expects to maintain current production levels while continuing its trajectory of becoming one of the most sustainable agricultural operations in the world. 

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