Colombia banana exports fell 2.7% in 2022 amid rains, war in Ukraine

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA, March 14 (Reuters) - Colombia's banana exports fell 2.7% to 108 million 20-kilogram boxes last year, the head of banana growers' association told Reuters on Tuesday, citing inclement, rainy weather and difficult international markets due to the war in Ukraine.

Banana exports totaled $892 million, slightly below the $898 million in 2021, when the Andean country exported 111 million boxes of the yellow fruit, according to the Colombian Banana Growers' Association (Augura).

"We come from 2022 where all the negative factors hit us. Excess rain affecting plantations caused by climate change and the increasing presence of (banana fungus) sigatoka," Augura President Emerson Aguirre said in an interview.

The sector was also hit by higher fertilizer and freight costs, and the war in Ukraine, he added.

"These two markets (in Russia and Ukraine), especially the Russian one, are served by the Ecuadorean banana supply," he said. "Since Ecuadorean bananas couldn't enter Russia, there was an excess banana supply globally and prices fell in the first semester."

Output per hectare fell 4.5% to 2,027 boxes in 2022, from 2,124 in 2021, as heavy rains led to increased incidents of black sigatoka, a destructive fungus which can destroy plantations, Augura data showed.

In 2019, Colombia detected fungus fusarium tropical type 4, which causes the so-called Panama disease, or wilt, that attacks the roots of the Cavendish banana variety in the northern La Guajira province.

Colombia has so far eradicated 200 hectares (494 acres) of affected plantations to control the disease, while maintaining strict quarantines.

The country is the world's fifth-largest banana exporter after Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and the Philippines. Some 53,318 hectares of Colombia were planted with bananas as of the end of 2022.

"This year we're targeting recovery of production to 111 million boxes and to grow output by an additional 5%," Aguirre said.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Richard Chang)

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