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Amable del Corral, Regional President of PALCA:

We cannot continue marketing as we used to when Canary bananas had a privileged position in our market

The Canary Islands banana has been immersed in a dynamic of low prices for over a year, with no clear end in sight. "The truth is that there is an overproduction of Canary bananas, and the sector is struggling to sell them in its traditional market, which is the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands," says Amable del Corral, from PALCA. "But how did we get to this situation?"

"In the Canary Islands, we receive 141.1 million euros in POSEI funding for a production of 420,000 tons of bananas. When this figure was set in 2008, we had never reached such a production level; the idea was to leave some margin for growth for the banana production. However, in recent years, we have been exceeding it, hence, a reduction coefficient is applied to the total kilos produced."

"Asprocan (Association of Banana Producer Organizations) has reported that this is due to climate change, but we believe that it is also due to the arrival of some newcomer producers to the banana sector," he says. "Some entrepreneurs from other branches saw that the support is currently guaranteed and have invested in banana plantations, mainly in Tenerife and Gran Canaria."

"This increase has led to about 440,000 tons being marketed last year, with a "pica", that is, market withdrawal, of 27 million kilos. Even with this withdrawal, the market has not managed to recover because, as we have been telling Asprocan and the POs, they are not marketing is a viable manner at this time. Especially considering there are no limits to the volume of overseas bananas that can enter the Spanish market."

"We cannot continue marketing as we used to when Canary bananas had a privileged position in our market," says Amable. "Back then, exporting companies competed between themselves, but now they have to do so with our natural competitor: overseas bananas, which are not going away and already have a market share of around 50%."

"Thus, we have been saying for many years that a mentality change is needed and that the sector should opt for joint marketing, with a great unified supply, and for us to avoid taking clients away from each other. The purchase price of Canary bananas is falling due to competition between sellers, even though we have been throwing bananas away into landfills or giving them away to livestock farmers since last December."

"Things cannot continue like this," he says, "because the ones affected by the consequences are not the cooperatives or exporting companies, which are still earning enough to pay salaries, but the small producers, who can hardly earn enough to maintain their farms. Due to the prices paid since December, producers without capital reserves are slowly going bankrupt and, if the situation is not resolved, a number of small growers will be forced to abandon the activity in the short term."

"We insist on the implementation of the much-needed mirror clauses"
It is worth recalling that on the island of La Palma, affected by a volcano eruption at the end of 2021, there are more than 4,000 of the 6,700 banana growers present in the Canary archipelago, says Amable del Corral. The average age of those producers is high and, for that reason, many of the farms are sharecropped and at risk of being abandoned by their sharecroppers, who are obtaining no profit from the activity, further preventing generational renewal. "Our sector is also at risk, and that's why Canary banana producers are taking part in the protests of the agricultural sector in Spain."

Despite being produced in an outermost region or being subject to the Programme of Options Specifically Relating to Remoteness and Insularity (POSEI), bananas must still strictly comply with the conditions and demands imposed on agriculture by Europe, says Amable. "It's important to remember that Canary bananas, just like other EU products, are subject to all European Union legislation. For us, the production costs are higher than those of overseas bananas due to higher social costs and the growing conditions imposed by European regulations, and therefore, we believe that overseas bananas are currently an unfair competitor. Therefore, we insist on the implementation of the much-needed mirror clauses."

"We took part in the demonstration in Madrid with the banner: 'Canary bananas: ruined by its leaders'"
"We PALCA people traveled to Madrid to the protests called by Unión de Uniones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (Union of Unions of Agricultural Producers and Ranchers) with a very striking banner: 'Canary bananas: ruined by its leaders'. In our opinion, Asprocan is not providing solutions or information to the sector; in fact, they only make statements when they feel under too much pressure, blaming the situation on school holidays, consumers moving to the coast in summer, the sale of seasonal fruits, or climate change, failing to address the problem from a realistic perspective."

"Given the situation we were dealing with, and which was not improving, on September 5, PALCA decided to meet with the Councilor of Agriculture of the Government of the Canary Islands, to whom we made a number of proposals that, we think, if implemented, could help prevent all those kilos of bananas going into landfills."

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