Going Bananas in Peru

I have learnt a LOT about bananas in my first few days in Peru so I thought I would share some banana facts with you.

Did you know that Peru is relatively new to bananas? Despite its late entry to the market the country has a competitive advantage in that the climate is relatively dry which reduces the risk of fungus and allows the farmers to cultivate their bananas without the use of chemicals.  It takes about 8 months for the banana bunch to grow.   First the ‘madre’ stem grows and three weeks after the flower appears small fingers start to grow.  A protective bag is then placed over the bunch to stop insects and birds attacking the fruit. 12 weeks later the bananas can be harvested.  The stem then dies and the farmer selects a “nino” child stem to grow and take the mothers place.  The process starts again.

Yesterday I brought you news of Banana co-operatives Cepibo and Appbosa.Since we met them we have visited two other banana groups, Bos and Apoq. Bos really felt like a community organisation. They have been using their Shared Interest term loan for a number of projects which include new storage, palletising and office facilities.  We went with the General Manager, Pedro Quezado to see the on-going construction work. Shared Interest’s lending has also enabled a government grant to be accessed to finance the projects. This new storage facility is important because it will reduce the waste created when containers are not available.  The next project will be a processing plant to make puree from the bananas which are rejected for export.  This will create 30 new jobs.  I spoke to one Board member, Mirta, who told me that she had worked with Bos for five years.  Previous to that she had sold her produce to the local market at a very low price.  Now she gets a good price for the bananas.  She told us that Bos had a very big impact on the community.  Each year they invite 750 local children to participate in learning activities.  Many more children go to school now and two young people have just graduated from university. This would have been impossible without the existence of Bos and the help of Shared Interest.

Later in the afternoon we met with Apoq is a small producer organisation with 458 members. All are small producers with on average 0.8 ha of land.  Since working with fair trade 7 years ago they have built their own packing plant and currently export 100% of their bananas. The social impact has been significant in this time.  They invest the Fairtrade premium to improve the packing stations and also help the producers with health and education.  They pay 50% towards a health insurance and the other half is paid by the farmer.  Training is provided on security, health, environmental impact and first aid topics.  Profits are reinvested back into the community with workers paid $10 per day, 25% more than the daily average.

I can’t resist sharing a few more banana facts…did you know that:

  • Bananas are the fourth most important staple crop in the world, and are significant for food security in many tropical countries. They are also the most commonly eaten fruit in the world.
  • If all the bananas grown in the world every year were placed end to end, they would circle the earth two thousand times.
  • World banana production amounts to around 81 million tonnes per year and due to the climatic conditions required to grow them, production is mainly concentrated in developing countries in Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.
  • Fairtrade bananas were first introduced into the UK in 2000.

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