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Costa Rica sets new record in banana exports

Costa Rica sets new record in banana exports

The value of banana exports also reaches an all-time high of $986 million. Productivity rises from 2,339 to 2,800 boxes per hectare per year.

BY MARVIN BARQUERO S. mbarquero@nacion.com

Banana growing is centred on the cantons of Sarapiquí, Pococí Siquirres, Guácimo, Matina, Limón and Talamanca on the Carribean coast, and in Parrita, Corredores and Palmar Sur on the Pacific coast. It provides direct employment for an estimated 43,000 workers.  JORGE CASTILLO/ARCHIVO

Banana exports in Costa Rica reached record levels last year in terms of both volume and value, aided by the weather and a number of measures taken by banana producers.

In 2016, the volume produced reached 120 million boxes of 18.14 kg, according to figures requested from the Corporación Bananera Nacional (National Banana Growing Corporation), also known as Corbana.

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The chart shows that the highest volumes were recorded in 1998 and 1999, with a total of 116 million boxes.

However, between 1998 and 1999 those levels of production were reached with a planted area of almost 50,000 hectares, whereas last year the corresponding figure was 43,000 hectares, according to the assistant to the general management of Corbana, Omar Sánchez.

The positive result in 2016 also brings an end to the fall in productivity of the previous three years, measured in boxes per hectare per year. Last year 2,800 boxes per hectare were produced, compared with 2,339 in 2015 and 2,564 in 2014.

Meanwhile income from banana exports reached $986 million last year, which is also an all-time high for the sector.

This represents a recovery in banana exports from the marked downward trend in 2015, when plantations were affected by weather problems due to the most recent occurrence of El Niño.

As a result, Corbana believes that any comparisons between 2016 and the previous year are significantly distorted, arguing that it makes more sense to compare last year with 2014, which can be described as a ‘normal’ year.

Last year saw a 19% increase in volume compared to 2015, and a 9% increase compared to 2014.

Weather. Sánchez agreed with the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Luis Felipe Arauz, that the weather had a significant impact. He claims that better weather conditions and rainfall in banana-growing areas as well as higher temperatures led to increased production.

He added that in 2015 the opposite was the case, with some areas experiencing rainfall of 50% above average.

He pointed out that an imbalance between water and heat causes a fall in productivity as the plants are highly vulnerable to these factors.

In addition, the producers resowed a number of areas with plants with a higher yield.

Arauz also believes that the banana producers are an example for the country, not just because of their productivity levels but also because of their environmental protection programmes.