NOVA MEDIA PUBLISHING INC.

Costa Rica: Drop in Banana Exports

4.1.2019

Low in the value of exports of bananas and juices and fruit concentrates impact-ed on the general behavior of agricultural and food sales abroad, during 2018. According to figures from the export portal of the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer), the value of banana sales abroad, accumulated between January and October last year (latest available data), fell by 4.4% compared with the same period of 2017, since they went from $ 880 million to $ 841 million. In the case of juices and fruit concentrates (including, especially, orange and pineapple) sales in that period fell 18% in value, since they went from $ 201 million be-tween January and October 2017, to $ 165 million in same period last year, ac-cording to Procomer statistics.

The banana, despite the fall, is the main individual export product of Costa Rica, according to the value of its sales. For this reason, its behavior is very influential in the general state of the agricultural sector, where it is classified.

Therefore, the agricultural sector, in general, barely grew 1.2% in the period de-scribed, going from $ 2,394 million generated between January and October 2017, to $ 2,424 million achieved in that period of 2018. On the other hand, the value of placements in the food industry, where juices and concentrates are classified, fell by 1%. The juices and concentrates are the second product in relevance for this productive sector, behind the syrups and concentrates for soft drinks, according to the Promoter. Factors A change in the variety of trees that are used to produce oranges and, from them, juice and concentrate, was the cause in the fall of production and exports of this sector, said Procomer.

The cultivation of oranges was hit by the appearance of diseases, especially the bacteria called yellow dragon. For this reason, the pro-duction companies decided to replace varieties with varieties that are more tolerant to the bacteria, which would increase pro-duction. But that change generated a reduction in production, while new plantations reach maturity and full harvest, said Pro-comer. In the case of bananas, the main factor is the impact of climate.  Precipitation levels were above 2016-2017 and rain has not been well distributed, we had floods in February and heavy downpours in July; said Jorge Sauma, general manager of the National Banana Corporation (Corbana). In addition, the heat units have been below in the last two years, affecting the production of the farms.

Regarding export by volume, Sauma explained that it will be around 123 million or 124 million boxes (18.14 kilos), about four or five million less packages of that weight than in 2017, a reduction of around of 3%. At the end of the year, the decrease in income or value would be lower than what was seen until October with the data from Procomer, since the Corbana estimates are a bit different.

According to our statistics, which are based on the Unique Customs Declarations approved by the country's customs, to date the preliminary value of exports, as of October 31, 2018, totals $ 870 million against $ 877.1 million in the same period of 2017, that is, a reduction of $ 7.2 million, equivalent to -0.8%; Sauma said in a written response.

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